Ogden City’s proposed Union Station Campus took center stage at the recent NAIOP, Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s annual symposium as a case study of historic architecture converging with modern needs. A panel featuring the key stakeholders designing the 35-acre Union Station Campus, discussed the important role the Union Station train depot and its surrounding property will play as Ogden City continues to advance the downtown area as an economic powerhouse not only for Northern Utah, but the entire state. The design of the campus will be developed through a comprehensive partnership of stakeholders, including Ogden City, Utah Transit Authority, and the development team led by J. Fisher Companies and McWhinney; selected through a public Request for Proposal process.
Krista Sprenger, with McWhinney Real Estate Investment, says success is in the planning, “In this case because the plan is so bold, to make it successful [is] all going to be built on how the placemaking comes out. How do we make it authentic; how do we make it a place where people want to hang out?”
This annual symposium coordinated by NAIOP Utah brings together the state’s top developers, property owners, investors, and commercial real estate players to discuss industry trends as well as share best practices to enhance the state’s economic growth. Because of this, Ogden City’s downtown master plan, Make Ogden, was a primary piece of discussion for attendees. With the Ogden City Council’s recent vote to begin funding key Make Ogden projects, coupled with the announcement of developers J. Fisher Co. and McWhinney Real Estate Investment as partners for the Union Station Campus, the design process is now underway.
“What we’re trying to do with this next chapter of Make Ogden, the Union Station [project], is tell the real story. There’s an incredible history, an authenticity to this place. This is a once in a 200-year opportunity. You don’t get to redevelop these kinds of sites that frequently and you want to make sure you’re taking the time and doing it right. This community will be engaged throughout the entire process,” explained Robb Berg, president of Design Workshop, a firm that helped sculpt Make Ogden. Berg, along with Ogden’s Community and Economic Development Director, Brandon Cooper, J. Fisher Companies owner, Owen Fisher, Nick Duerksen with Utah Transit Authority, and McWhinney’s Krista Sprenger made up the panel.
The panel highlighted plans to not only preserve Union Station and the Laundry Building on the southern end of the campus, but also the adaptive reuse of the property to make it economically viable once more. Cooper says, “It’s this unique environment anchored by this cultural icon that represents the history and soul of the city with these museums as part of it. Then connect it to 25th Street and what you can bolt on to that from the south and to the north. [This] is an amazing opportunity for not only us as a city but all of Utah, there’s just isn’t anywhere like it. We’ve got a team that can pull it off.”
That team includes McWhinney, a key partner in the successful adaptive reuse of Denver’s Union Station. “There’s lots of really unique ways to do adaptive reuse of buildings into something you maybe didn’t think about before. I think here there’s a great opportunity to do that as well because the bones are so solid,” says Sprenger.
J. Fisher Co., named Developer of the Year at this year’s NAIOP Utah Symposium after hundreds of votes cast by attendees, is taking the lead on plans for the Union Station Campus. Fisher sees the development as a team effort saying, “Partnerships are really important. This is a complex project, there’s a lot of layers in it and the real key is going to be patience, persistence, and it’s going to take a unique partnership. This isn’t something you normally see. This is truly transformative.”
Ogden City’s partnership with J. Fisher and McWhinney will ensure best practices in building, design, and placemaking but also create a space that highlights the area’s cultural value, expand transportation and essential services for the surrounding communities. “I know that the community loves Union Station, and they care about its future use, so there will be a lot of interested folks, folks who want to contribute their ideas. We want to honor that,” says Cooper. “We want it to feel like it’s a community asset as it always has been. Really, there’s a lot of depth here when it comes to public engagement. We’re really looking for creative ideas to get people involved and hopefully we’ve allotted the time necessary to get as much involvement as is possible.”
Ogden City Community and Economic Development hosts “You MAKE Ogden”, a monthly series highlighting difference aspects of the Make Ogden master plan. This series is scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of every month running from 5:30 to 7pm, inside historic Union Station. Ogden City staff is on hand to answer questions about Make Ogden, hear from the community, and showcase the progress of various projects within the plan.