Ogden leaders OK plan to acquire 2nd District Court lots for WonderBlock plans
OGDEN — The big decisions to move ahead with the multimillion-dollar WonderBlock development project in downtown Ogden were made last week.
But the discussion lingered on into Tuesday’s gatherings of the Ogden City Council and the Ogden Redevelopment Agency, made up of City Council members. Likewise, officials approved a few items necessary to allow the plans to proceed, including a deal with the state of Utah to take over part of the parking area serving the 2nd District Court building in Ogden, land in the WonderBlock footprint.
Mayor Mike Caldwell, for one, reiterated his enthusiasm for the project, crafted by his administration in a bid to spur economic development and growth. The plans, costing around $240 million, call for construction of several four- and five-story structures on a largely empty swath south of Historic 25th Street that will house apartments, office and commercial space, parking structures, a grocery store and a hotel.
“This is years in the making. It’s a big deal for everyone,” Caldwell said. “It’s truly visionary and I’m excited we get to move forward.”
City Council member Ben Nadolski, who voted no last week for the bonding measures needed to help finance the plans, said he’s nervous about the project because of the many elements that have to come together for it to succeed. Even so, with the project now moving forward, he said he aims to get behind it.
“I’m dying to get behind this thing to make it succeed,” he said. Given the big stakes and big investment, he plans to now do what he can “to get it through the finish line because it has to succeed.”
The WonderBlock area covers a 5.9-acre piece of property north of 26th Street between Lincoln and Grant avenues. Boosters envision the project as an expansion of sorts of Historic 25th Street and the restaurants and businesses along that corridor. The two areas would be connected via a pedestrian pathway and plaza that cuts through the WonderBlock development from 25th Street to 26th Street.
Though last week’s split City Council decisions approving the two bonds — needed to help cover the cost of the development — were perhaps the biggest hurdles to the project so far, they aren’t the only decisions. The City Council and the Ogden Redevelopment Agency Board approved four resolutions between them on Tuesday needed for the project to go forward. The Redevelopment Agency Board is made up of the seven Ogden City Council members.
Among the measures was a deal with the state of Utah to give the city seven state-owned parcels measuring 1.47 acres between them that are now used for parking for the 2nd District Court building at 2525 Grant Ave., which abuts the WonderBlock area. Two of the parcels sit along 25th Street and the others lie just to the south, behind several 25th Street businesses.
That land will be folded into the WonderBlock plans, and as part of the transaction, the state will get perpetual right to 100 parking spots in one of the parking garages in the development, among other things.
Among the other resolutions was an agreement firming up the deal between the city and J. Fisher Cos., the private developer spearheading the plans, to pursue the WonderBlock project. Brandon Cooper, director of Ogden’s Community and Economic Development Department, called the arrangement a “public-private partnership.”
As part of the plans, J. Fisher will put up $124 million for the main WonderBlock development while the city will contribute $64 million to $75 million in bond revenue. The city also plans a second bond issue of $53.3 million to $85 million to cover the cost of building the two WonderBlock parking garages and shifting to paid parking in the downtown area, another prong of the plans.
While the key WonderBlock decisions have been made, city leaders on Tuesday reiterated their thoughts about the ambitious plans.
“We’re doing our due diligence. We’re checking, we’re asking the questions,” said City Council Vice Chair Ken Richey. “I do wholeheartedly support this project.”
City Council member Bart Blair lauded the involvement of J. Fisher Cos.
The developers “have always expressed their desire to help Ogden keep moving forward, to help Ogden grow and expand and become even greater, and I appreciate their passion, their love, their vision that they have for our city,” he said. “I’m excited about the partnership that we’ve established here and moving forward.”