Ogden Union Station Project: ‘A 200-Year Opportunity’

OGDEN Utah, March, 2023

A developer involved with plans to make over Union Station in Ogden and overhaul the land around it is bullish on the possibilities.

“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,” Robb Berg of Design Workshop said in a City of Ogden Facebook post.

Union Station’s future has been a fierce focus of debate for several months, with some of the historic facility’s advocates worried, in particular, about city officials’ commitment to the antique car, Browning gun and railroad museums under its roof. City leaders have tried to allay the concerns, expressing support for keeping the museums as the massive Union Station makeover edges forward, probably over many years.

Berg, too, offered supportive words.

“What we’re trying to do with this next chapter of Make Ogden, the Union Station piece, is tell the real story. There’s an incredible history, an authenticity to this place,” he said in his comments, included in a post about a recent symposium in Salt Lake City involving Utah developers where the Union Station plans were a focus.

Make Ogden is the city planning document that outlines a broad range of redevelopment initiatives around the downtown area, including redevelopment of Union Station and the land north and south of it along Wall Avenue. Design Workshop is one of the firms identified as a possible participant in the Union Station plans.

Berg’s remarks come ahead of a planned open house on Wednesday hosted by the city that’s focused on Make Ogden and geared to informing the public about its many elements. That meeting goes from 5:30-7 p.m. and will be held at Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave.

Likewise, Steve Jones, part of the local group that’s been pushing to defend the Union Station museums, touted the coming meeting and the efforts to reach out to the broader community. He met recently with reps from J. Fisher Cos. of Centerville, one of the main firms involved in the Union Station redevelopment effort, and Mortensen Construction of Salt Lake City, tabbed as a potential partner.

“Their goals seem to be right in alignment with those of our Save Union Station group so I am encouraged that we will see a great outcome,” he said.

Community outreach seems to be a priority for the developers, something he welcomes, he said. “It would be refreshing to have an open and honest process where everyone knows what we will be getting at the end of the process instead of having a surprise that is shoved down our throats,” Jones said.

Though the Union Station overhaul has long been discussed and contemplated, actual concrete moves forward are only now getting out of the starting block. Late last month, Ogden officials announced that J. Fisher Cos. and McWhinney, a Colorado-based developer, had been picked to draw up the development scheme for the effort.

Still, some broad ideas have already emerged. The area of focus is a 29.6-acre swath of land extending from 22nd Street south to 27th Street on the west side of Wall Avenue, centered by the Union Station campus. The Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner station is located there and the UTA, which owns much of the land in the area along with the city, is also involved.

According to a “development framework” for the Union Station plans that’s dated April 11, 2022, Union Station redevelopment is the centerpiece of the plans. Per other provisions of the framework:

  • The vision is to create a “thriving, transit-focused, mixed-use district” that includes commercial, retail, office and residential elements.
  • The FrontRunner platform would be moved south and placed adjacent to Union Station.
  • East-west walkways are envisioned between each numbered street from the development area east across Wall Avenue to provide pedestrian access to and from transit infrastructure. The 2022 documents show five walkways — between 23rd and 22nd streets, 23rd and 24th streets, 24th and 25th streets, 25th and 26th streets and 26th and 27th streets.
  • Two “major open spaces” are envisioned — in front of the Union Station on its eastern side and just north of Union Station. The Union Station Plaza to the east would serve as a “civic destination” and “welcoming ‘front porch’” to Ogden. The “transit plaza” to the north would serve as a connector to transit infrastructure at Union Station and further north.
  • Though the project area measures 29.6 acres, 17.7 acres of that is regarded as “developable” space for retail, residential, office and other functions. Three acres would be open space, 4.4 acres would be used for circulation of people and 2.4 acres would be set aside for parking and transit.
  • Heights of buildings closest to union station would be limited to 46.6 feet and that would gradually edge up further north and south to 118 feet.
  • A new museum, the 115,000-square foot Utah Heritage Museum, would sit south of Union Station containing the displays it now houses and, perhaps, more. Together, the museum, Union Station and the plaza fronting Union Station would be “the anchor for the entire development.”
  • The rehabilitation and renovation of Union Station would bring “a combination of restaurant, retail and complimentary uses into the historic building to return the historic building to its former role as the heart of downtown Ogden.”

Officials haven’t pinpointed a price for the overhaul nor a specific timeline. The plan is to involve the private sector.