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WonderBlock bonding expected by December; work to begin in January

By Tim Vandenack - | Nov 20, 2023

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

This photo shows the WonderBlock site on Nov. 7, 2023, looking northwesterly from the corner of 26th Street and Grant Avenue.

OGDEN -- Early this year, Ogden officials agreed to bond for up to $160 million to help with the WonderBlock project, an ambitious plan calling for apartments, office space, a grocery store and parking garages on a vacant plot in the city center.

Soon, dirt could move as work starts on the first of two parking garages to take shape in the development area, an eight-story structure. The WonderBlock area covers 5.9 acres on the north side of 26th Street between Lincoln and Grant avenues, just south of Historic 25th Street. "We hope to break ground on the east parking structure in January," said Brandon Cooper, director of Ogden's Community and Economic Development Department.

Ahead of that, in the last week of November and the first week of December, the city plans to issue the two bonds that'll help cover the cost of the project, in conjunction with Centerville-based developer J. Fisher Cos., which is to put up $124 million. The measures approved in split votes last January by the City Council allow for bonding of up to $85 million to help cover the cost of the two planned parking garages and up to $75 million for the core elements of the project, including the apartment buildings and office space.

"I think as soon as they get funding, they'll start construction," said Janene Eller-Smith, who helps manage the Ogden City Council office.

The plans were the focus of a pair of recent Ogden City Council gatherings as officials sort through some of the technical issues related to bonding and covering the cost of the bonds. Cooper, though, reports that things are moving along.

Image supplied, City of Ogden

This image shows the WonderBlock site plan. The 5.9-acre site is bounded by 26th Street to the south, the bottom of the image, Lincoln Avenue to the west and Grant Avenue to the east.

"We are excited to bring this new and awesome project to the Ogden community," he said.

He said the first parking garage, to be built south of the 2nd District Court building with an entry off of Grant Avenue, should be done by the fall of 2025. The rest of the project, including a second parking structure on the west side of the WonderBlock zone, should be done by May 2027.

Implementation of paid parking in the downtown area is another element of the plans and Cooper said that is expected to start gradually in late 2024.

As envisioned, the proposed cluster of four- and five-story WonderBlock buildings would contain 354 market-rate apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of retail space, a grocery store and a boutique hotel. The parking garages aim to accommodate existing auto traffic and anticipated traffic flow as downtown development proceeds.

A north-south pedestrian passage through the WonderBlock zone would connect to Historic 25th Street.

For now, though, the WonderBlock area is empty and fenced off. A pair of signs posted in its boundaries announce that office space will be available.

All told, the estimated price tag of the WonderBlock project, including the cost of the parking garages, the office space, the apartments and the other elements, ranges from $241.3 million to $284 million. J. Fisher Cos. would cover $124 million of that with the rest coming from the city bonding.

The bonding for the main WonderBlock elements would be paid back by tapping lease-revenue funds the city gets from operation of Business Depot Ogden and tax-increment financing, or TIF, funds from the new development. The parking bonds would be paid through fees generated by the shift to paid parking.

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