OGDEN — Ogden’s East-Central neighborhood has long been a focus for city government officials.
And with a pair of multimillion-dollar endeavors on the horizon, the city is again putting the area under a microscope.
Ogden’s planning department is beginning an update to the city’s East-Central Community Plan, which guides development in the area directly east of downtown and west of Harrison Boulevard — generally between 30th Street and the Ogden River.
A component of the city’s General Plan, the East-Central measure includes guidelines and policy statements for things like facilities, community identity, economic development, environmental resources, housing, land use, neighborhoods, open space and transportation.
Ogden City Deputy Planning Manager Clinton Spencer said the plan is relatively current, so the department’s update isn’t an overhaul, but rather, it’s meant to address a few specific items.
Most notably, the upcoming Utah Transit Authority Bus Rapid Transit project and work associated with the Nine-Rails Creative District. The city is planning to hold a series of public meetings on the plan and the corresponding projects. The first of such meetings, an online open house, is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 22. Spencer said planning staff is also putting together some questions for an online survey.
“There’s a lot of money being invested here,” said Ogden Chief Executive Officer Mark Johnson. “So for something like the BRT, we want people to use it. We want to know what it will take for residents of East-Central to use it and make the most of this investment.”
The $100 million Ogden BRT, which will provide a 5.3-mile transit connection between downtown Ogden and the campuses of Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital, is slated to begin in the late fall or, at the latest, in the early weeks of 2021, according to UTA Trustee Beth Holbrook. The service will run through the heart of East-Central, originating at the Ogden UTA transit center at 2350 Wall Ave., heading east on 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, south along Washington Boulevard to 25th Street, east along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard, then south to WSU and a planned transit center at the Dee Events Center.
The line will include mini transit stations and other transit oriented development throughout the route. Once the project begins, major utility work will also take place through the corridor, which means traffic will be tied up around East-Central until the project is complete in August 2022.
Meanwhile, work is also ramping up on the creative district.
Part of a larger initiative called the Adams Community Reinvestment Area, the city’s goal with Nine Rails is to establish an epicenter for arts and culture in Ogden.
Right now, officials are working to develop a plan for a new arts plaza at 445 25th St. City Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Brandon Cooper said the Dr. Ezekiel and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation has pledged $1 million toward the project. The plaza is envisioned to function as a gateway between the downtown and the east-central neighborhood and function as one of the main attractions of the district.
The 150-acre Adams redevelopment district, which includes all properties between 23rd and 28th streets from Washington Boulevard to Jefferson Avenue, includes both commercial retail and residential buildings and many historic properties. The city will use tax increment financing to help fund approximately $124 million of construction projects associated with the CRA.
An area that has long been one of the city’s most economically distressed, Johnson said the East-Central area has been a target for redevelopment for years.
According to a housing needs assessment released earlier this year by Weber State University, growth in home values and gross rents have been outpacing income growth in East Central by about 1% to 2% per year since 1990. Home ownership rates are low, at 40%, compared to Ogden’s city-wide rate of 55%.
The report says both homeowners and renters in East-Central face issues of housing access and quality. About 75% of homeowners in the area live in homes that were built before 1950, which makes for higher repair and maintenance costs.
During the past decade, Ogden has completed multiple redevelopment projects in blighted areas of the neighborhood.
In 2013, the city completed the Prairie Cove development, a subdivision consisting of three 1,600-square-foot, Prairie-style homes on what had been a blighted weed patch on the north side of 23rd Street, immediately east of Monroe Boulevard. Later that year, the city finished the Lincoln Cottages project, which featured 14 separate 1,200-square-foot homes on an previously undeveloped 2.5-acre lot at approximately 27th Street and Lincoln Avenue.
The city completed the Oak Den Bungalow project in 2014 — 23 modern homes near the corner of 24th Street and Fowler Avenue that filled a mid-block area in East-Central that had been vacant for years. In 2018, the city began work on a new subdivision at the site of the old Dee Elementary School, which will ultimately include 21 new homes built and sold by the city.
Late last year, the Ogden City Council approved a resolution that designated a survey area for the one-block piece of land between Monroe and Quincy avenues from 24th Street to 25th Street. Designating the survey area is the first step in creating a redevelopment district there that would allow the tax valuation for all properties to be diverted for a certain amount of time (or up to a certain dollar threshold) while future property tax increases are funneled back into redevelopment projects there.
Johnson said the creative district and the BRT represent a continued commitment to revitalize the neighborhood.
“Everybody kind of notices the progress that’s been made downtown over the last several years,” Johnson said. “And clearly, the downtown has been a focus, but so has East-Central. The two areas border in each and they both need to be successful and thriving for the city to really reach its potential.”