by Dan Schroeder
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours pedaling around downtown Ogden. Although my main objective was to finish the Historic Building Scavenger Hunt, I also took this opportunity to observe and photograph the status of several ongoing downtown projects.
I was pleased to see plenty people and cars at The Junction, mostly around the movie theater and restaurants. As others have said, it seems a shame that the Salomon Center isn’t also open on Sunday.
Glancing upward at the windows of the Liberty Junction apartments, I saw increasing signs of occupancy. At the ground level, though, there’s been hardly any change in the last year. Nearly all of the retail space remains “for lease”. There is a new potato restaurant (closed on Sunday) in the Subway building. Fed-Ex and T-Mobile are still the only two tenants in the retail spaces fronting on Washington Blvd.
Across Washington, the situation hasn’t changed much either. The ground-level retail spaces that were renovated by the city last fall, using federal stimulus funds, are still vacant.
And of course, looming over the intersection of 24th and Washington, the old Wells-Fargo Building still stands completely empty--having lost its last two occupants (the bank and a law firm) to the new Wells Fargo Building across the street.
Heading west on 23rd Street, I passed the now-abandoned Descente warehouse. On the bright side, there was almost no Sunday traffic on this part of the street.
Farther north, along Grant Ave., a prominent sign announces the ongoing Ogden River restoration project, and reminds us of who our mayor and city council members are--or rather were, as of last December. The sign also reminds us that the total Phase 1 cost is $2.1 million, and that the project is being funded entirely by federal, state, and local government entities. (The sign doesn’t mention the private matching funds that were promised but never delivered.)
The river itself is looking pretty nice, for a construction zone. I’m optimistic that this project will achieve its purpose, making this three-block stretch of the river an attractive amenity. The coming RAMP-funded high-adventure playground should add to the attraction.
Surrounding the river, of course, are the dozens of abandoned homes still owned by Gadi Leshem and/or his associates. Leshem City looks about the same as it did this time last year. Once again nobody is cutting the grass, but somehow I doubt that Mr. Leshem has received any threatening letters from Code Enforcement.
On the west side of Wall Ave., the Walmart site seems to be gradually coming along. The weeds are gone and the dirt is looking very smooth, ready for an enormous parking lot.
Across 20th Street from the Walmart site, the site of Ogden’s promised Velodrome is (of course) untouched. Also apparently owned by Mr. Leshem, this piece of land looks nice and green this time of year. Too bad about the accumulation of trash.
Last but not least, I’m pleased to report that I found the last of the 12 Scavenger Hunt buildings. And of additional historical interest, this building was adorned by an authentic Lift Ogden banner--a relic of the historic Ogden Gondola War of 2006. We can only assume that had the gondola been built as proposed, all of the projects mentioned above would now be complete, and all downtown buildings fully occupied. Sigh.