OGDEN — By the time the Business Depot Ogden is built out — a milestone officials say should occur within the next 15 years — the number of employees working at the business park will grow by about 70 percent.
BDO General Manager Blake Wahlen said the 1,118-acre employment center has approximately 200 to 250 acres of land that can still be developed. Right now, the BDO has about 6,200 employees, 126 businesses (including the Standard-Examiner) and 11.2 million square feet of building space.
When the last building is put up, Wahlen said the number of BDO employees will total more than 10,000 — growth somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 percent.
“There’s a lot of acres still open for construction and we’re still expecting a lot of (new businesses) to come in,” Wahlen said. “We’re happy with how things have gone, but there’s going to be a lot more to come.”
Wahlen said 95 percent of the available building space in BDO is occupied.
The effort to turn the once vacant military installation into Ogden’s largest business park began 20 years ago when the federal government gave the land and buildings associated with Defense Depot Ogden to Ogden City.
The depot closed in 1997 after a Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure round. After the closure, Ogden was deeded the land for free and entered into a public-private partnership with Salt Lake City-based real estate developer the Boyer Company.
The agreement included a $12 million bond, which funded initial infrastructure improvements, and an arrangement that froze the area’s tax valuation and put the revenue generated from property tax increases back into the development. The subsidy tool, Tax Increment Financing, is used to give developers an incentive to build in areas that are often seen as undesirable.
In theory, the financing model pushes development projects along by paying for things like street and utility improvements, hazardous waste removal, property acquisition and the demolition of blighted buildings.
Since the initial deal was struck, the bond has been paid off and tax mechanism will expire next year, but Wahlen says expansion of the park will continue for another 10 to 15 years.
After expenses, Ogden and the Boyer group split BDO lease revenue 50-50. Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said the venture has been a boon for the city on all fronts.
Johnson and Wahlen say large-scale expansion of infrastructure, like widening of roads, won’t be necessary to accommodate the expected employee growth.
Aside from the occasional traffic jam caused by a train passing over the nearby Union Pacific Railroad tracks, Johnson said congestion hasn’t been an issue in the park.
“We feel like access is pretty solid,” he said.
A few years ago, the city successfully lobbied the Utah Department of Transportation to install a traffic light at the intersection of 12th Street and Depot Drive. Johnson said that measure has improved both safety and flow.
For years, there’s been discussion of building a FrontRunner stop at the park.
“It’s been kind of on the table, off the table,” Wahlen said. “We’d love to see it, but at this point it’s still just an ongoing discussion.”
The roadblock is that the Utah Transit Authority doesn’t own right-of-way for the train north of its Ogden stop near 23rd Street. For years, the agency has used Union Pacific’s rail line to shuttle passengers between Ogden and Pleasant View.
Earlier this month the agency announced they would be cutting FrontRunner service to Pleasant View, citing low ridership caused by the restrictive agreement with UP. UTA wants to eventually acquire right-of-way north of Ogden so it can operate the commuter train on its own track, all the way into Box Elder County.
UTA spokesman Carl Arky said the potential right-of-way acquisition would likely green-light the BDO FronRunner stop, but there are no timetables for when that might happen.
“There have been discussions, (but) there’s nothing on the drawing board and it is not imminent,” Arky said in an email.