Ogden mulling 26-unit housing plan by St. Joseph Catholic Church
OGDEN — The vacant spot east of St. Joseph Catholic Church near the city center is set to be turned into a 26-unit townhome development with a new street cutting through the lot between 23rd and 24th streets.
Per the proposal, focus of discussion this week by the Ogden City Council, Ogden would give the 2.7-acre city-owned parcel to Henry Walker Homes along with $870,000 to cover the cost of building a new Porter Avenue segment through the property. Henry Walker Homes — part of J. Fisher Cos., which is involved in the multimillion-dollar WonderBlock project in downtown Ogden — would complete the development by Dec. 31, 2025.
“This is about neighborhood revitalization,” Brandon Cooper, director of the Ogden Community and Economic Development Department, told officials during a work session last Tuesday. “It’s about creating an impact to the neighborhood that then allows people to feel comfortable making additional investment in their neighborhood.”
Council members had numerous questions and comments about the process that led to selection of Henry Walker Homes, given the role of J. Fisher Cos. in other projects around Ogden. The developer-selection process has been a big focus of discussion among city officials. What’s more, some residents have raised their eyebrows at the number of projects in Ogden that include involvement of J. Fisher Cos., like the Capitol Square project, WonderBlock and the Union Station redevelopment effort.
“That is the elephant in the room,” said City Councilperson Luis Lopez.
Cooper said Henry Walker Homes was one of just two firms to respond to a public request for qualifications in 2021 open to all companies interested in developing the vacant parcel next to St. Joseph. City officials reviewed the qualifications of each, settling on Henry Walker as the most qualified in part due to its experience, he said.
As a developer, J. Fisher Cos. “represents the best of the best,” Cooper said.
Officials took no action at Tuesday’s work session, just discussed the plan parameters and other project details.
The townhomes would each measure three stories and they’d be offered at market rental rates, not subsidized rates. There are more than 800 current or proposed subsidized housing units in the area, Cooper said, and city officials aim to offer a mix of housing types.
A three-story office building and a single-story commercial building once sat on the land at 550 24th St. After they were vacated, they started declining in condition and the city started the process of acquiring the property in 2015 in a bid to alleviate blight in the neighborhood and promote redevelopment.
Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner
All told, Cooper said, the city has spent $975,000 in acquiring the land, clearing it and abating asbestos issues.
Numbers indicate that city involvement in the project — donating the land to Henry Walker Homes — helps make the project financially feasible for the developer. If the developer had to pay for the land, the project would not be profitable at the quality level proposed.
Either way, the city would have to cover the cost of the new Porter Avenue segment cutting through the development, represented by the $870,000 the city would provide for that element of the project.
If the land were left solely to the private sector, Cooper told city officials, the quality of the finished product probably wouldn’t be as high as is possible by having the city partner with a developer.
City Councilperson Rich Hyer expressed support for the plans. “I think this is critical to the City of Ogden that we do these,” he said.