A cup of historic preservation, a dollop of urban renewal, and a dash of vision. Are these the ingredients for Ogden’s award-winning success? Historic 25th Street was recently named one of the “Best Streets in America” by the American Planning Association. The downtown blocks are just a small section of a major redevelopment effort that Ogden City has been engaged in since the mid-eighties. The efforts are really starting to show, and recently officials from other cities and visitors have all been asking the City of Ogden, “What’s the secret sauce?”
Urban redevelopment is complex. Ogden City’s Community and Economic Development staff play a huge role in creating a vision for the downtown and the community-at-large and attracting businesses to the area. But it also takes city administration, effective leadership and a myriad of committed community members and business owners.
Ogden had a nasty track record of crime and is now one of the safest cities in the country. That doesn’t just happen overnight. Cleaning up blighted areas, recognizing historical elements and rewarding those who maintain them, honoring local businesses over the corporate giants; those kinds of results require buy-in from every level of the community.
Another element is what development director Tom Christopulos calls “pioneers,” home buyers who come into a place like Ogden and not only see potential, but invest as well time, money and effort.
Economic Development has been working tirelessly to revamp the city’s downtown and historic neighborhoods. Those efforts are just starting to take shape and though many others have been in the works for months, even years, visual proof is just starting to pop up around town. New housing along the river from Washington to the Weber/Ogden confluence, salvage and recovery of East Central historic homes, a new STEM elementary school to replace the Dee campus, an updated and extended retail system in an “L” along 12th Avenue and on Wall Avenue from 17th to 12th; all of these are taking shape now and are the immediate focus for the next 5 years.
These new projects along with recently completed ones like the Ogden Temple restoration, the River Parkway trail system, Weber State Downtown, city-built cottages sprinkled throughout the residential zones, Ogden High School remodel, tear down of sub-par housing, cleanup and transformation of vacant lots and properties, an increased focus on arts and culture – all of this has come together with a layered approach, combining city, business, private and grassroots groups and volunteers to bring the vision for Ogden to present reality. And that has given residents and local business owners something to take pride in.
If the secret sauce could be simplified down to a single ingredient it’s this: a sense of ownership. My town; My Ogden. The notion that, “I have a say in what happens here. I can start a project here and make a difference. My voice can be heard.”
Businessman Thomas Kiernan is working hard to bring his Mason Jar Coffee Roasters into Ogden proper. “Ogden represents growth and innovation. The city is a magnet for diverse sets of people. I see a regeneration of energy and excitement around the city that we want to experience as a business and also contribute to.”
People have ownership here. That’s our secret sauce; businesses and individuals: Ben Nadolski working on river restoration, Giv Group and the Imagine Jefferson complex, the Historic 25th Street Association, Ogden Trails Network and Weber Pathways.
And that circle of influence is growing.
Damn right this place is awesome. We’ve been saying it for years. And now, people who were on the edge or people who wanted to make a difference but weren’t sure they could, they’re seeing the impact that one, two, a hundred people can make and they’re buying in. They’re buying in big time; as home owners, as community leaders, as project leaders and as volunteers.
Oh, Ogden has a secret sauce alright, but it’s something earned, not something bought.
You can see what Ogden residents are taking pride in, in real time by following the
hashtag #myogden on Instagram. We also recommend: @ogdenreborn,
@indieogdenutah and @ogdenonly