OGDEN — A group of students from Utah State University have come up with a plan to repurpose the Union Station rail yard and revitalize the west Ogden neighborhood behind it.
Students from USU’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning department recently completed their senior design studio project, which centered around creating new identity for the historic rail yard, west Ogden and creating a meaningful connection between those areas and central Ogden and downtown.
The plan is massive and comprehensive, but it includes things like new greenways, trails, river restoration, the reconfiguration of 24th Street and other streets in west Ogden and contemporary uses of existing infrastructure in the area.
Some of the more interesting specifics include the development of 76 tiny homes and a project called the “Swift Ruins,” at the soon-to-be demolished Swift Building.
Ogden City purchased the building — which once served as home for the now defunct Swift meat packing plant and was most recently been used by Smith & Edwards as storage facility — in 2017 as part of its Trackline redevelopment project.
With its large red “Swift” sign and prominent location near the 24th Street bridge, the building has been an icon in Ogden. It was built in 1917 and the city would have preferred to keep it, but the old structure was so dilapidated that it couldn’t be salvaged. The students’ proposal would keep portions of the historic building intact, allowing it to be enveloped by the floodplain of the nearby Weber River.
The students built a detailed scale model of their design, accompanied by concept drawings. The model is on display in the foyer of the third floor of the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd. Caroline Lavoie, an associate professor in the LAEP department, said students built upon ideas, visions and goals that have already been established by the city. She called the work in Ogden “a fantastic laboratory for the students.”
Ogden Planning Manager Greg Montgomery said he was pleased with what the group came up with and was eager to see which elements of the plan could become a reality.
“There is a lot of potential out there (at the rail yard),” he said. “There are precedents in a lot of other communities where rail yards have been converted into part of the downtown, whether it be Denver, Spokane, Providence, Rhode Island — there are lots of different places where rail yards have become part of the downtown.”
Ogden Director of Community and Economic Development Tom Christopulos said city officials would be scrutinizing the plan over the next 12 months and making refinements to it.
“Over the next year, we’ll be coming to (the city council) with how we think were going to be implementing (parts of the plan),”he said. “The students have done an amazing job of imaging the future and what the future can entail and catching some of the things that we’ve had on our minds for a long time.”
The city has much invested in the west Ogden area and is currently working on its own large-scale redevelopment plan there.
The multimillion-dollar Trackline Redevelopment Area includes 122 acres between 24th Street and Middleton Road from the railroad tracks to G Avenue. As one-time home to Ogden’s livestock industry, the area was once a thriving economic center, but has been mostly abandoned since the stock yards closed in the 1970s.
The city is transforming the area into a mix of commercial, manufacturing and light industrial space, which will include a 51-acre outdoor recreation business park called the Ogden Business Exchange. The park will include a refurbished historic Ogden Exchange building, which was once the administrative home of the stock yards.
Ogden is also working through the beginning stages of an extensive renovation of the 95-year-old Union Station and its grounds. Though still in its infancy, the project could include large, public open spaces, museums, art galleries, high-density housing, retail space, meeting and event space and administrative offices.
The plan has been in limbo for several years because, even though the city owns the station itself, Union Pacific owns all of the ground surrounding it. The city is trying to negotiate a purchase of the property with UP.