OGDEN — A plan to build an arts and culture core in east-central Ogden is quickly becoming a reality.
The “Nine Rails Creative District Master Plan” is scheduled to be reviewed by the Ogden City Planning Commission in April. The proposal is as ambitious as it is wide-ranging, but its aim is pretty simple: create a concentrated hub for arts and culture where creatives can live and collaborate and where visitors can come and explore.
The plan overlaps with the city’s ongoing Adams Community Reinvestment Area, but really stands as its own enterprise. Ogden’s Business Development, Planning and Arts divisions were involved in its design and the city hired Io Design Collaborative (owned by Ogden resident Shalae Larsen) as lead consultant.
Sara Meess, a project coordinator with Ogden’s Business Development Department, said the district will complement the city’s existing creative scene — particularly the one that thrives in Ogden’s Central Business District and along certain stretches of Washington Boulevard.
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The heart of the district is bounded by Washington Boulevard to the west and Jefferson Avenue to the east, between 24th and 26th streets. But Meess said the area will extend west to Historic 25th Street, north to The Junction, and east into the east-central neighborhood, with deliberate connections established between all of those spaces.
Art crosswalks, improved streetscapes, a food truck hub, plazas, a gateway art installation and a major redesign of Lester Park have all been identified as potential ventures. More details on each project can be found in the plan, which is available at ogdencity.com/1179/Creative-District.
Sections of the project area are zoned for business use, while some are restricted to multi-family residential use. Meess said zoning changes may be necessary to accommodate parts of the plan.
“There could be zoning changes — provided they don’t have a negative impact on the existing area,” she said. “(Zoning changes) would be meant to encourage development that creates activity at the street level.”
Buildings that are set closer to the street, as well as large, transparent windows, could be part of the new zoning equation, Meess said.
Though the plan hasn’t yet been critiqued by the planning commission or City Council, parts of the initiative are already being realized.
In a press release, Ogden’s Arts Coordinator Lorie Buckley said The Bigelow Hotel will soon unveil a series of renovations at the historic Ogden landmark. A public reception will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 6 in The Bigelow’s Daylight Room, 2510 Washington Blvd.
On the same day, just prior to the reception, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held for an overhaul of the structure that once served as the hotel’s garage.
The hulking commercial building sits on the southeast corner of 25th Street and Ogden Avenue, just east of the hotel. It’s been vacant for years, but occupies some prime real estate. Resting on the eastern edge of Historic 25th Street and the central business district, the building is on the route of a proposed bus rapid transit system that would run from Ogden’s Intermodal Transit Hub to Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital.
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Ogden area developer and entrepreneur Thaine Fischer is redeveloping the building, which has been renamed The Monarch. When the renovation is complete, the building will offer restaurants, retail and event space, exhibit and collaborative space, and design studios.
Just up the road from The Monarch, James Argo is refurbishing the commercial structure immediately east of the U.S. Forest Service Building.
The Ogden-based industrial designer and owner of Industrial Art and Design said the building last served as a sober living house and was being used by squatters when he bought it. He envisions the finished product to be a creative studio, with space for architects, designers and engineers.
Argo took part in conceptualizing the plan for the district and is excited to see the idea come to life. He said Ogden has a thriving arts scene, but it’s mostly confined to extremes on a spectrum. On one end, Argo said, you have things like arts and crafts. On the other end are Ogden’s more high-brow offerings — selections you’d find at a place like the Eccles Community Art Center.
“It’s that big space in the middle that needs more participation,” he said. “That space for more modern, edgy or even controversial art. I think that will open up with this plan.”