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Master plan for Ogden’s Union Station sparking concerns, criticism

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 16, 2023
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Union Station in Ogden, photographed Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.
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The highlighted area indicates the sector that's the focus of redevelopment in the proposed Union Station Campus Master Plan.
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The pink, green and gray sections of this graphic show the sector that's the focus of redevelopment in the proposed Union Station Campus Master Plan.

OGDEN — Questions and concerns simmer as the Ogden City Council mulls the master plan meant as a starting point for redevelopment of Union Station and the land around it.

The Ogden Union Station Campus Master Plan, as it’s called, provides an outline for redevelopment of the 29.6-acre swath encompassing Union Station in the city center and the land to the north and south of it. It’s been a big point of discussion and debate as city leaders move forward with several initiatives aimed at redeveloping and reinventing large sections of the city center.

Some, though, worry the proposed master plan variously needs more work or contains problematic provisions, notwithstanding city leaders’ assurances that it’s meant as a guide, not the final blueprint of Union Station redevelopment. The City Council on Tuesday took public input on the plan and the body is tentatively scheduled to take it up for formal consideration on Sept. 26.

“I’m going to suggest it needs a lot more work before being accepted,” said Steve Jones, a vocal Union Station booster and one of the speakers at the meeting. The development area extends from 22nd Street south to 27th Street on the west side of Wall Avenue and includes 17 acres owned by the Utah Transit Authority — a key player in the plans — including the Ogden FrontRunner station.

Jones singled out the addition of a structure that would obstruct the view of the northern end of the Union Station structure looking westward from Wall Avenue. The plan identifies the spot he noted as “developable area” though it doesn’t spell out what could or would go in the space.

“That should be a no-no and should be prohibited in the plan,” Jones said.

Theresa Holmes, also an ardent Union Station booster, bristles at the notion of “smothering Union Station with a bunch of apartments and crap.” The proposed master plan envisions mixed-use development in the extended project area, including retail, commercial, residential and more.

“This is a special place and I don’t think these developers understand it,” Holmes said.

She worries allowances for mixed-use development will give developers too much leeway. “Who’s going to stop them from doing anything?” she said.

Along with the UTA, Ogden is teaming with McWhinney of Loveland, Colorado, and J. Fisher Cos. of Centerville in crafting a development plan, similar to efforts to redevelop areas around FrontRunner stations in Clearfield, Roy and elsewhere. Ogden officials and members of the development team have said over and over that they will get public feedback before reaching any final decisions and they reiterated that on Tuesday.

Angela Choberka, chairperson of the Ogden City Council, said any concrete development plan in the Union Station project area would have to come before the council for consideration, notwithstanding the proposed schematics in the Ogden Union Station Campus Master Plan. Brandon Rypien, a senior planner in the Ogden Planning Division, said more detailed “master plans” would likely be formulated for specific portions of the 29.6-acre swath.

“This is not the final step,” Rypien said.

Beyond that, Councilperson Marcia White said officials in cities with FrontRunner stations are obliged by state law — House Bill 462, approved in 2022 — to come up with development plans containing high-density housing around the rail stops. “These kind of frameworks can’t wait for the next generation,” she said.

Mayor Mike Caldwell emphasized the efforts and planning that have led up to the proposed master plan. “We have spent years holding open houses and town halls and public forums for people to come in and give their advice and their consideration on what they think should happen down there,” he said.

Even so, Angel Castillo, another speaker Tuesday, said efforts to collect feedback on Union Station and other development initiatives always seem to draw “the same people, the exact same people.” She, like Jones, suggested the City Council wait until a new mayoral administration takes office early next year before acting. Castillo unsuccessfully vied for mayor of Ogden, finishing fourth among the seven hopefuls in primary balloting that culminated on Sept. 5.

“Let them make it their own at that point,” Jones said.

Ben Nadolski and Taylor Knuth are facing off in the Ogden mayoral race to replace Caldwell, who isn’t seeking reelection. Election Day is Nov. 21 and the winner will take office in early January.

Knuth, reached for his take, expressed comfort with how the process is unfolding. “I trust the process. I trust the City Council to engage in the process,” he said.

Nadolski noted “confusion amongst stakeholders” given the varied guidelines figuring in development in and around Union Station — the city’s zoning ordinances, the Make Ogden plan, the proposed Union Station master plan and the final plan yet to be developed. Make Ogden is a plan that outlines redevelopment throughout Ogden’s downtown area.

Such confusion “often leads to conflict,” which had him suggesting officials slow the process beyond Sept. 26, when the City Council is tentatively scheduled to take up the matter again.

“This project is critically important, and we don’t need to be in a hurry since the final planning process is still underway,” he said. “So if we don’t have enough time to get on the same page as our stakeholders prior to the 26th, then it might help to pump the brakes for a bit.”


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