LOGAN – Logan City officials have taken the first incremental steps toward the implementation of Mayor Holly Daines’ controversial plan to revitalize the so-called Center Block in downtown Logan.
That’s the opinion of Vint Larsen, the owner of Al’s Trophies and Frames on 100 North St. and one of the most vocal critics of the mayor’s redevelopment proposal.
But Kirk Jensen, the city’s economic development director, says that Logan is spending more than $900,000 to acquire two properties that just happen to border on the Center Block parking area that has become a point of friction between some members of the downtown business community and the city.
“The Emporium project, as it was presented previously, is still in planning mode,” Jensen says, referring to the now-vacant multi-story retail/restaurant structure that dominates the Center Block. “This property acquisition is advantageous, even independent of the Emporium project.”
Jensen addressed the members of the Logan City Council on July 7 to obtain their approval as the Logan Redevelopment Agency diverts $920,000 that had previously been earmarked for demolition of the Emporium to acquire the two properties within the Center Block.
The first of those properties is a parcel that includes the Auto Value of Logan building along 100 West St. and some adjacent parking area owned by Larsen Family Holdings, LLC. The cost of the property will be $650,000 and the transfer of ownership is expected to be finalized by the end of July.
The other parcel that the city wants to acquire is some nearby parking area north of Anderson’s Seed and Garden, owned by the Mark & Ronnette Anderson Trust. Jensen said that deal is still being negotiated. Mark Anderson is a member of the Logan City Council.
From the sidelines of the city’s actions, Larsen said those property acquisitions clearly signal that Logan officials are preparing to implement the mayor’s downtown redevelopment plan.
“This whole thing is sneaky and underhanded,” Larsen claims. “Mayor Daines’ plan to revitalize the downtown area will kill off its business community.”
The so-called Center Block is an area bounded on the east by Main St., on the north by 100 North St., on the west by 100 West St. and on the south by Center St. A significant portion of that square block area is a parking lot that serves the businesses on the surrounding streets.
In 2019, Daines announced a redevelopment plan for the Center Block that had been crafted with Dan Lofgren of Cowboy Partners, a property development firm based in Salt Lake City. That plan called for the demolition of the Emporium building and adjacent structures to make way for a public plaza, a stage, residential apartments and a parking structure.
The City of Logan owns the Emporium and the nearby structures, but their scheduled demolition was blocked by a September 2019 ruling by the city’s Historical Preservation Committee.
Another problematic hurdle for the city’s redevelopment plan is the disputed ownership of the parking lot in the heart of the Center Block.
Jensen explains that the parking lot was jointly purchased by the owners of surrounding businesses in 1969, then deeded to the city on condition that the property be used strictly for parking “in perpetuity.” That agreement between the city and business owners was legally reaffirmed in 1984.
Larsen says that the properties that the city is now acquiring are portions of the parking lot not covered in that 50-year-old agreement. City Attorney Kimber Housely has said publicly that Logan will litigate if necessary to gain control of the rest of the parking lot to erect its proposed multi-story apartment complex and parking structure. But Larsen suspects that it is more likely that the city will try to seize the property through eminent domain.
Larsen added that just the threat of a lawsuit or condemnation proceedings over the parking area is already bad news for business opportunities in the Center Block area.
“Who in their right mind would want to purchase property here or start a business if they have no guarantee that parking will be available for their customers?” he asks.
Business owners who oppose the city plan also say that the huge footprint of the proposed residential/parking structure will make it impossible for large trucks to make deliveries to them. They also express concern that the majority of the space in the proposed parking structure will be taken up by residents’ vehicles, leaving no room for their customers to park.
But Larsen also warns that there may be no businesses left in the Center Block area by the time that the construction of Daines’ dream is completed.
“The estimated construction time for the city’s project is three years,” he emphasizes, “during which our customers will have to deal with no parking in the Center Block area, plus all the noise and inconvenience associated with a major construction project.
“Most likely, people will simply avoid the area during the construction period and, after three years, our former customers will be completely out of the habit of coming downtown at all.”