City council awards RDA grants for Center Block plaza

This artist's rendering shows an aerial view of the proposed public plaza that Logan city officials plan to build in the midst of the city's Center Block area.

LOGAN – After a public hearing Tuesday, the Logan City Council gave its enthusiastic blessing to an ambitious plan for the redevelopment of the Center Block area of downtown Logan.

Acting in their capacity as the Logan Redevelopment Agency, the council members also earmarked nearly $6 million in city funds for the project.

“I’m all in,” said council member Tom Jensen. “This is what redevelopment funds are intended for.”

Council members Amy Anderson, Jeanne Simmonds and Ernesto López agreed. Council chair Mark Anderson abstained from the voting due to a conflict of interest.

As a prelude to Tuesday’s public hearing on the Center Block project, Logan Economic Developer Kirk Jensen explained that the city’s plan called for demolition of existing buildings at 47, 55 and 67 North Main St., followed by construction of a public plaza and associated improvements.

Those amenities will include a stage, a splash-pad and an administration building at the western edge of the property and a portable ice rink in winter, he added.

The so-called Center Block is bounded by Center St. on the south, Main St. on the east, 100 North on the north and 100 West to the west.

Mayor Holly Daines listed the cost of the redevelopment proposal at more than $4.3 million, including about $1.3 million for the demolition of the now-vacant Emporium Building and adjacent structures to the north; about $2.1 million for construction of the public plaza; around $400,000 for the portable ice rink; and about $440,000 for construction of an outdoor stage and an administration building.

City officials also requested another redevelopment grant in the amount of nearly $1.6 million for the remodeling of structures adjacent to the proposal plaza to the south at 41 and 45 North Main Street.

Local residents who spoke during the RDA meeting were about evenly split in their opinions about the Center Block project.

Keegan Garrity, who represents the Woodruff neighborhood area, said that an informal survey of 1,000 local residents indicated that they were appreciative of amenities like a splash pad and ice rink, but not enthused about locating those attractions adjacent to Main Street. He urged the city council members to reconsider “knocking the front teeth” out of the Center Block by demolishing the Emporium Building.

Marty Moore and Chris Sands, both of whom own property in the downtown area, praised Daines for spearheading the Center Block revitalization and urged approval of funding for the project.

Local real estate developer Tony Johnson, on the other hand, recommended that the council members “take a time out” to consider an alternative proposal that would save public funds by allowing commercial redevelopment of the Emporium Building and other nearby properties.

CacheARTS director Wendi Hassan took the podium to enthusiastically applaud the idea of a performing arts space in the midst of the proposed Center Block plaza, connected by pedestrian walkways to the nearby Utah, Lyric and Ellen Eccles theaters.

Finally, Cole Matthews of Hyrum questioned why the city of Logan was so eager to spend $6 million on the Center Block project but unwilling to support a proven tourist attraction like the Cache Valley Cruise-In. Matthews also urged the preservation of the Emporium Building for historic reasons.

Prior to the voting to award the RDA grants for the Center Block project, council member Jeanne Simmonds noted that, regardless of its nostalgic value, the Emporium Building hasn’t enjoyed much in the way of commercial success for years.

Following the RDA funding decision on Tuesday, the final hurtle for the Center Block plaza project is an okay by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee, which banned demolition of the Emporium Building in 2019. That approval seems all but certain after a general outline of the current Center Block plaza concept drew unofficial praise from HPC members in fall of 2020

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