OGDEN — Mayor Mike Caldwell says there are plenty of things that set Ogden apart from other areas of the state, but the city’s historic infrastructure — both in volume and distinctiveness — is near the top of the list.
Landmark buildings stretch from one end of the city to the next. From the 94-year-old Union Station at the west end of 25th Street to the 80-year-old Ogden High School resting just below the mountain foothills in the east, stately structures are scattered all over the place.
“We’re lucky to have so many of them still intact,” Caldwell said. “The city got rich and poor at the right times. When the railroad started to thrive and our economy started to boom, we built a lot of these grand, elegant buildings. When the trend was to tear everything down and build stucco strip malls, our economy had fizzled and the buildings stayed up, but became vacant.”
Historic 25th Street serves as a microcosm of that circumstance.
During the railroad’s heyday, from the late 1800s up until the 1950s, the street was a hotbed of economic activity and the buildings there were occupied and lively.
By the 1960s, 70s, 80s and even into the 90s, the street was desolate — with vagrancy, street prostitution and bars owning the territory. The fade of 25th Street mirrored the fade of passenger railroad service and most of the buildings on the historic road were empty during those lean years.
The city created a redevelopment district on 25th Street in 1979, and by the 1990s, things started to change. The historic buildings on the street we ready for new tenants and they slowly became filled. Today, space on the street is highly coveted.
Caldwell believes preserving historic structures is an important component in preserving the city’s character, that it’s a tangible way to keep Ogden’s eclectic past alive. When possible, the mayor said, the city has a keen interest in participating in that effort.
Ogden will have a hand in the redevelopment of several vacant, high-profile, historic structures scattered throughout the city.
Here’s a sampling:
• The Monarch Building: Ogden-based developer Thaine Fischer purchased the 57,000-square-foot building, which once served as a parking garage for the Bigelow Hotel.
According to Weber County property records, the structure was built in 1927. It’s sat vacant for more than a decade, but Fischer plans to renovate it to include new space for restaurants, retail and event space, exhibit and collaborative space, and design studios.
The project is a key component in two different city initiatives — the Adams Community Reinvestment Area plan and a smaller proposal within it called the Nine Rails Creative District. The city will provide Fischer up to $1.23 million in tax increment to reimburse Fischer for development expenses.
The city is looking to lease and possibly purchase 15,000 square feet in the garage to build a community-based “makerspace” that will include manufacturing machines, welding equipment, commercial sewing machines, 3D printers, paint booths and woodworking tools — all available for community use.
The building is located at 455 24th Street.
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• Ogden Exchange Building: Built in 1930 and long-rumored to be haunted, the Exchange Building once served as the administrative headquarters for the Ogden Union Stockyards, once the biggest livestock market west of Denver and one of Ogden’s biggest economic drivers.
The building is included in the city’s Trackline redevelopment district, which involves 122 acres between 24th Street and Middleton Road from the railroad tracks to G Avenue. The city plans to transform the area into a mix of commercial, manufacturing and light industrial space, which will include a 51-acre outdoor recreation business park called the Ogden Business Exchange.
The exchange building, which sits at 600 W. Exchange Road, has been put on the National Register of Historic Places and will receive a full historic renovation. Eventually, the building will house 30 to 50 offices and the lobby will feature historical artifacts from the old stockyards.
• Wells Fargo/First Security Bank Building: Built in 1926, the former commercial bank building is also included in Ogden’s Adams CRA plan. The initiative calls for a $21 million reconstruction that would transform the building into a mixed-use facility with 70 residential units, 16,000 square feet of commercial space and 82,000 square feet of retail space.
The tallest building in Ogden sits on the corner of 24th Street and Washington Boulevard.
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• Swift Building: With its large red “Swift” sign and its prominent location near the 24th Street bridge, the iconic former Swift meat packing plant is one historic structure that won’t be saved. Built in 1917, the building was most recently used by Smith & Edwards as a storage facility.
Also part of the Trackline district, the city purchased the building in late 2017 for $400,000 and plans to tear it down before 2018 is finished. Ogden Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Brandon Cooper said though the building has “tremendous historic value” it’s in such disrepair that it can’t be salvaged.
• Argo Building: Ogden-based industrial designer James Argo is refurbishing the commercial structure immediately east of the U.S. Forest Service Building. The building last served as a sober living house and was being used by squatters when he bought it, Argo said.
Just east of Washington Boulevard on 25th Street, the building is within the boundary of the Adams CRA and it figures to be a key piece of the city’s Nine Rails Creative District, which aims to create a centralized hub for arts and culture near Ogden’s downtown and east-central neighborhood. Argo envisions his finished rehab to function as a creative studio, with space for architects, designers and engineers.
The building was erected in 1900.
Kiesel/Hurst/Thornstensen buildings: All built in the 1910s, this trio of buildings on Kiesel Avenue have recently or will soon receive upgrades. Salt Lake City-based Lotus Company recently renovated the Kiesel Building, which has housed the Standard-Examiner and various different office buildings. It now features an app development company, event space and a photography studio.
Salt Lake City developer Bryan Wrigley wants to use the Thornstensen building for 26,730 square feet of office space.