Always Ogden... always awesome...

Ogden, Utah: Outdoor Recreation Capital of the World... home to over 3,700 historic homes in The Trolley District ... Snowbasin Ski Resort 2002 Olympic Venue... Crossroads of the West... Ogden Marathon... Ogden Raptors... and home to Terra Venture Real Estate. Welcome home...


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The Desire Named Streetcar

On a perfect day, somewhere in the near future:

The streetcar departs the Intermodal hub, headed up 23rd Street past the Ogden Raptors stadium.  Cruising through the Junction, it drops off several passengers, coming to visit I-Fly and dinner at the famed Sonora Grill.  Heading south on Washington, the streetcar picks up some MarketStar & Ogden City employees and heads up 25th Street.  Making its way up the hill, it gathers several more riders at the Weber County Library, the new Jefferson Commons complex and Golden Hours Senior Center.  On both sides of 25th Street, historic homes line the path of the streetcar, dotting the landscape with these jewels of the past.  Ridership increases as the car heads up the majestic 25th Street route, lined with historic streetlights and trolley stops. At 25th & Quincy, many get off & on, frequenting the new Trader Joe’s & World Market complex at 24th & Monroe.  What once was a hollow shell of an old grocery now attracts visitors from the entire state with the magnetism of fresh foods, trendy accoutrements and practical additions to their homes.

Residents of the Trolley District and East Bench climb on the car at stops along Harrison, making their morning commute to schools, hospitals or down to the FrontRunner station to points beyond. Where residents were destined to sit at the lights at Harrison and travel only by car, the Central City now provides an integrated lifestyle to its fortunate residents. Historic homes have been purchased by the hundreds, converted back to original purposes and shine like pearls along the route and beyond. Restored to its former glory of being the Trolley District, as it was at the turn of the last century, the streetcar route can boast the scenery rivaled by few in the U.S.

 

The efficient, lovable streetcar continues to pick up and drop residents, employees, visitors and students all the way down Harrison Boulevard.  Formerly slated to be a seven lane highway, Harrison Boulevard has been converted into an iconic livable, walkable community.  Dotted with historic homes, complimented by the clever design of mixed-use retail and service businesses, Harrison is the ‘place to be’ in Weber County.  Large, unsightly old grocery stores have been transformed into desirable shopping havens, loaded with health food stores and special interest shopping venues.  Integrated with living space above, most residents of Harrison have dumped their cars for the option of Life on Streetcar Lines, cycling or walking most places.

 

Ending at the hubs of Weber State and McKay-Dee Hospital, students, professors, patients and hospital employees no longer have to fight for that coveted parking spot – as most patrons take the streetcar.  Businesses continue to flourish all along the route, helping Weber County to capitalize on the transit-oriented-development (TOD) that only “rails in the ground” can provide.  TOD since the streetcar went in a few years back has exploded, putting Ogden City on the map for a stellar planning example by the Utah Transit Authority and UDOT.  UTA’s foresight in selection of the most effective streetcar routing is admirable and attributed to the success of the project.  UDOT’s willingness to truly address the future – and decline of fossil fuel transportation – is to be commended.

So, I can dream, can’t I?  This scenario actually CAN happen for us in Weber County, as it has in Portland, Seattle, Tampa & Los Angeles.  With your support, your voices and your participation in the process, an amazing economic development tool awaits us.  This planning is happening right now, thanks to the involvement of our Ogden City Council.  Visit TrolleyDistrict.org to keep in touch with what is happening.  For questions about the streetcar, feel free to drop me an email at sue@alwaysogden.com.

HomeSweetOgden… creating communities.

 

In 2005, Ogden City took on a renewal project like no other. In fact, it was like trading a bad house for a good one, and placing owners where tenants once were. In a neighborhood that sported one of the highest crime rates in 2003, the Trolley District, also known as the Ogden Central Bench Historic District, transition was sorely needed. The program has an official title, the Asset Control Area program, with a HUD-instrumented acronym of ACA to go along with it. So, in an effort to sexy up the name, Home Sweet Ogden came to be, along with a logo to designate the houses from others on the market.

In short, HUD is still swimming in FHA foreclosures, and in areas where the demographics suggest low incomes, they have determined that the City is the ideal ‘buyer’ for these distressed foreclosures. After they become HUD property, the houses are appraised, then sold to Ogden City for half of their appraised value. Believe me when I tell you that some are not worth the half that the City gets, and in fact, over the last 6 years, nearly 6 have been torn down, because the condition was so deplorable, no rehabilitation was possible. Remember – people LIVED in these homes!

Contractors hired by the City conduct the rehab, after coming up with a reasonable scope of work that addresses the major concerns in the house. These may be roofs, electrical, plumbing, kitchens, egress windows – and always flooring and carpet. If the home has incredible charm, care is taken to preserve the historic elements, as their appeal is now seen as desirable. Some of the cutest bungalows, victorians and cottages have come through the program, redone for an excited homeowner.

The program has had great success, mandating home ownership for 5 years through the use of the Own in Ogden program, that supplies a loan for down payment or closing
costs. One restriction that applies is the income limit of the buyer, which must be at 80% of Average Median Income for the area. A HUD magic number, dependent on household size, this restraint seems to be rather easy for buyers to meet in Utah, however, has also been the biggest complaint from potential buyers, as pressure for historic homes in the Trolley District has risen over the past four years.

The good news is that the program has worked as intended. In the nearly 65 houses done since July 2005, only 2 have foreclosed, both due to job loss in 2008-2009. Around 5-8 have been re-sold to the next wave of homeowners, and original owners remain in the rest. It is these owners that we salute, the urban pioneers of Ogden today, living in the central city once regarded as ‘scary’. Ogden has been changing constantly over the past 12 years, emerging from a landscape with willy-nilly urban planning and high crime, to one of consistency and character, community and cooperation.

For more information about the program, just drop me an email or check out Ogden City’s website at HomeSweetOgden.

Raptors Today… Dodgers Tomorrow…

Since 1939, the Ogden Raptors have had a presence in Ogden… and this year is no exception.  Our fabulous short-season Pioneer League has launched many great names in baseball.  In his coaching debut, Tommy Lasorda started in Ogden – and comes back for a few visits during the season.  We have been a L.A. Dodger franchise since 2003, after a long stint as a Milwaukee Brewers franchise.  Watching Prince Fielder hit a home run OVER the top of the scoreboard was still one of those moments that those in attendance won’t forget.  In recent years, we have watched several of our fabulous players make the climb to greatness – most recently Jerry Sands, who was playing in Ogden just two years ago. Gotta love it.

With about 36 home games, there are plenty of opportunities for family fun, and affordable fun at that.  Dave Baggott has done an excellent job of bringing a diverse selection of food to the ballpark that won’t break the bank.  Of course, many of us are thrilled with the wide selection of brews on draft, served by our ever-vigilant Kent.  Costa Vida brings some terrific sweet pork salad to the mix, and the barbecues at the Hard Ball Cafe in left field are always on…

Our ballplayers come from all over – as far away as Venezuela and the Dominican Republic – and as close as Ogden, and this year, Salt Lake.  In order to help out these players, a host family program was developed years ago.  Families take a player or two for the entire season, enabling them to concentrate on baseball, and not on housing issues.  Most of the players don’t have cars, so it’s helpful to have some flexibility … or an extra car … to assist them in getting to & from the park.   On Saturday home games, the host families have a tailgate party for the players – which, by the way, has resulted in a string of wins on tailgate nights.  Families all bring food & drink to share – and get some time to get to know the players.  This year, the construction of the IRS building led us to move the tailgate party to a coveted patio, just beyond centerfield, thanks to the generosity of Youth Impact.  What a GREAT deal this is – the barbecues, tables, shade & bathrooms make for the best location yet.

So grab your friends, your kids, your co-workers and head to the ballpark for a kickback evening of baseball, watching today’s Raptors turning into tomorrow’s Dodgers…

 

 

 

 

Slackwater Pub … a new culinary gem

There is no slack in this water, whatsoever!  Ogden welcomed the newest member of our restaurant family to town this past week – and I know you’ll like it!  Specializing in pizza and sandwiches, all made in-house … down to the YEAST… the food is amazing.  In addition to a fabulous menu, Slackwater Pub & Pizzaria (hereafter referred to as Slackwater) boasts the largest collection of microbrews – close to 70 – in Northern Utah.   Also featured is a wine-preservation system, complete with nitrogen-sealing upon opening of the bottles.  This allows the wine to last much longer, thereby offering wine drinkers the chance to enjoy wines by-the-glass that you’d rarely want to spend the kind of money it might take to get a bottle.  Perfect for those “glass of wine with dinner” folks, this wine bar may be the ONLY one in the State!

Location, some say, is what makes or breaks those in the restaurant business – and being right on the river, the venue was begging for an overhaul.  Sitting in the space next to Bingham Cyclery that was formerly Peleton’s, (and we liked Peleton’s, too, it just was a daytime thing… didn’t have the night-time vibe…), Slackwater owners Kriss & Justin have brought ambiance magic to the riverbank.  Soon to feature a rock wall separating the calming sounds of Harley Davidsons & bad muffler jobs from the atmosphere of al fresco dining, this change will further enhance a great outdoor patio.  The newly restored Ogden River is just feet away, as is the famous river walk which runs from the mouth of the Ogden Canyon to Riverdale.

Shall I begin with service?  Well, coming from one with extensive cooking & restaurant experience, I tend to be a little critical of service, but really, when you’re able to completely keep it all together with an opening night crowd, there’s nothing but accolades to the wait-staff and cooks.  The first week is crucial, we all know that, and Slackwater passed that test with flying colors.

On to the food … you HAVE to try the Mulligatawny soup … creamy, curry goodness that you can’t stop eating from first spoonful to the last.  Our group LOVED the “From the Earth” pizza – covered in shallots, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic & spinach.  Chicken Marsala is great as a dinner entrée but even BETTER as a pizza topping.  The Taste of Thai is also worthy of mention – with that cilantro, peanutty goodness – there were no leftovers there, either.  And for those picky eaters who won’t eat the crust… believe me, you’ll eat the crust.  It has flavor, texture, and isn’t just filler… must be that homemade yeast.  Three down, ten to go, and even then, you can always make your own.  In addition, there are sandwiches, salads and appetizers for every budget.

Dessert… was a whole new experience with the Cajun Delight… a most amazing and different dessert.  Pecans, custard, chocolate, cream, caramel… do I have your attention yet?  And for those east-coasters, a New York style cheese cake with all the trimmings awaits your discriminating palate.

Ogden needs things to do at night.  We fail miserably in the category of “night life”, and now, we at least have another venue to frequent.  Live music will be featured throughout the week on select nights, and it looks to be a place for gathering, eating, drinking, and just being Ogden.  Thanks to Justin & Chris for bringing their dream here to share with all of us…  1895 S Washington… at the river & the sign… if you need to call ‘em, 801-399-0637…  See you at the Slackwater!

Brewskis on St. Paddy’s… Just a little Irish?

There’s nothing quite like Brewskis.  It is our “Cheers”.  We know the bartenders, we know the cocktail waitresses, and our friends are all there.  St. Patrick’s Day is no exception, with friends known and unknown crowding the bar.  With the U-2-esque band playing in the background, it seemed everyone was in the mood for green beer.  Or Jameson’s. Or Jaeger.  It all appeared to be Irish…

Brewskis has been a fixture in Ogden for longer than I have been around, thanks to the dedication and involvement of owners Heidi Harwood and Bill Parker.  On top of being just a great all-round bar, the kitchen is excellent, with sauces and dressings made from scratch.  My personal favorite, the Sausage Knots… which are these deep-fried dough knot around sausage nuggets… dipped in marinara or ranch, are unbeatable.   The pizza is great, and the Brewskis salad is another I hold dear.  With over 22 beer taps and SIXTY feet of bar, there’s always plenty of room for everyone…

The other great thing about Brewskis is that they really ARE Ogden.  Always involved in street fairs, festivals and events, they open up the bars and make sure that we feel a little more comfortable with an ice cold beer in our hand. Heidi and Bill sponsor teams, help those in need in the community, and are involved in the Historic 25th Street Association in a big way.

After a game at the Raptors, we often head to Brewskis. During football season, we head to Brewskis.  On holidays, we head to Brewskis. After Farmer’s Market, we all end up at Brewskis.  It is the gathering point for Ogden, the place where every demographic can co-exist, albeit with green beer in hand. See you at the bar…

Painting the Ceilings

Ogden High School has been in several movies over the years, but it’s recent renovation project should really put it on the map.  Recognized as an architectural landmark in Ogden, and on the Local, State and Federal Historic Registers, the building was designed by the architectural firm of Hodgson and McClenahan.  In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provided a $10,000 matching grant to restore Ogden High School. A bond was recently passed by the district for the remodeling of Ogden High School including a new cafeteria, gym complex, and performing arts center in the first stage. The blueprint process began in December of 2006.

As an Ogden City Landmarks commissioner, I have had the distinct pleasure of being involved in the renovation from day one.  The windows have been painstakingly replaced with nearly-identical new, double-paned variety.  From afar, it is difficult to tell the new from the old.   The old gym was gutted and now houses some amazing science and computer labs – with great subway tiles lining the halls.

The most amazing part so far is unarguably the re-painting of the ceiling and walls of the theatre.  Originally painted by craftsmen of another era, the art deco designs were faded, with the gold leaf not shining as it once did.  Stucco along the ceilings had cracked, and the restoration process was a necessary activity.

Scaffolding was installed in the 3-story high auditorium, with barely 6 feet of clearance between the top platform and the ceiling itself.  Walking across that platform gave pause for thought that the floor was 30 feet below you.  With great pleasure, I was able to meet the head painter (and I hesitate to call him a painter – he truly is an artist of amazing magnitude) Chuck Taylor.

He showed us where, 30 feet over the stage, they found names of the original painters, written in pencil, where no one would ever cover or see them.  Thanks to Chuck’s preservationist nature, those names were preserved and sealed.  Chuck began painting at a very young age, with his father and grandfather leading the way.  I believe he said that he began at 11? The brushes that he uses are specialized ox hair brushes, hand-crafted with brass handles. To purchase these brushes today is upwards of $100 each.  He spends much of his time CLEANING these brushes.  One in particular was passed down from his father – it had to be over 50 years old.

The gold and aluminum leaf process is also fascinating.  The Ogden High project used about 5 ounces of gold to do the entire auditorium, at over $12,000 an ounce.  You see, the gold is pressed sooooo thin, and attached to leather strips from which it is detached from when applied to the wall.  An adhesive is placed over the area to be ‘leafed’ and then it is carefully applied to the chosen spot.  They also used aluminum leaf to do the silver portions — silver will tarnish… not so for aluminum.

The theatre is nearly done, and once the chairs are re-installed, and I am sitting there for a performance, I can only gaze at the amazing trimwork from 30 feet below… knowing that it, too, will be there for another 80 years, at least.

So, the next time you’re staring at that ceiling, wondering if someone has the patience, talent and the ability to create – or re-create – a treasure from the past, you’ll know Chuck Taylor did.

OgdenWeber Chamber carries on…

25th & Washington - the Chamber's current home

In 1887, an organization began that would forever change the course of Weber & Davis Counties.  Known then as The Ogden Chamber of Commerce, it was “organized for the purpose of advancing the general prosperity of the city of Ogden.”   That mission statement still holds through today, as the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce is a force to be reckoned with in local politics.

Hill Air Force base, perhaps the largest economic success story for the State of Utah, might not have existed, except for the tenacity of the Chamber.  When rumored that the government was looking at Northern Utah for their new installation in 1935, the Chamber rallied and purchased the ground to give to the government – paving the way for the groundbreaking in 1940.  In the late 40’s/early 50’s, then Governor J. Bracken Lee decided that there was not enough money to run the state’s higher learning institutions – the Chamber went into full gear and ran a campaign to save Weber College.  This movement helped the school to make the move to their current site, as well as make the conversion to Weber State University that it is today.

The Chamber has 17 different committees that involve members in all different facets of the community.  From Education, Military Affairs, Women in Business to Legislative Affairs, there is a committee to meet your interests in the community.  The Chamber has a very aggressive recruiting campaign, always reaching out to find those new to the community – or opening a new business.  Eleven years ago, I was a new Realtor – and joined the Chamber. Through active involvement, my Chamber membership returned rich dividends in terms of clients, activity involvement – but first and foremost, friends!

One of the Chamber’s most visible committees is that of the Spikers.  The group is comprised of about 50 community leaders, who religiously attend ribbon-cuttings for new businesses and new additions to the community (dog parks, kayak parks and more!).  In their black blazers, lapels filled with pins from different events, the Spikers are the ambassadors for the Chamber.  Throughout the year, the group holds several activities designed to enlighten their membership, create cohesiveness and – of course – they ALWAYS have fun doing it.

With Utah emerging faster from the recession than any other state in the Union, involvement in a support group such as the Ogden-Weber Chamber is imperative for all businesses.  The Chamber is the cheerleader through these tough times – and joining together for the good of the community is a worthwhile pursuit.  I urge you to check out more of the Chamber’s activities at Ogdenweberchamber.com

Saturday Morning in Ogden: Farmers Market

Fresh produce, eclectic artwork, community service booths and the smell of delicious coffee and fresh bread – these are the beginning of the Farmers Market in Ogden.  Running from July through late September, the market’s popularity has turned into a ritual for Ogdenites seeking a casual Saturday morning routine. The market opens around 8 a.m…. but I have noticed a peak around 10 a.m. when most seem to arrive.

Located in the center of Ogden, right in the heart of the Historic 25th Street business district, the market center is at 25th & Grant.  The Municipal Park is the main location, however, vendors from the adjacent stores often line the street as well.  The market-goers often begin at one end and meander up and down the rows looking for the prize tomatoes, corn, onions, beets – or artwork selections! There are also some great jewelry vendors too, and the food is just amazing.

The Farmers Market also features cooking demonstrations, musicians and performances throughout the morning.  Entertainment runs throughout the day, at a marvelous stage at the edge of the lawn. It’s not uncommon to see many just hanging out on the grass, taking in the sun and sights – with Ogden’s diversity, there always seems to be an outfit or two that catch your attention. It is a full mix of families with strollers, hikers, bikers, dogs, kids and just the casual observer. All in the shadows of Mt. Ogden – there is no market with the backdrop of mountains that we are blessed with. Don’t miss it!

First Friday Art Stroll

Oh, the culture of art. Throughout history, art has survived.  From the early days of hieroglyphics on the walls of 9 mile Canyon to the most amazing wall murals in the urban cores of our cities, art survives.  The creativity of the artist is alive and well in Ogden on the First Friday Art Stroll – held, ironically, the First Friday of every month.  Started as a summer activity, the art stroll has grown in popularity and now continues year-round and features upward of 25 venues!  The most populated galleries tend to be the famed Eccles Art Center, at 26th & Jefferson, along with Gallery 25, and the up & coming Crowley-Wilkerson Gallery, the latter on Historic 25th Street.

The Eccles Art Center features awe-inspiring artists, ranging from the famous to the firsts.  Competitions are very popular on their walls, with engaging art that rotates through monthly.  The galleries at Ogden Blue are unique in that the artist is usually hanging out in their studio, working on their next masterpiece.  Cara Koolmees’ ability to craft watercolor into amazing tapestries of recognizable street scenes is worth the trip up the 40-someodd stairs to her gallery above Bistro 258.  The newer galleries on the stroll offer interesting venues, like the Alison Benjamin Gallery at the Scowcroft Mansion – who can resist walking through a 101-year old classic Ogden home with art lining the walls? Of course, many of the galleries serve that classic, time-tested beverage made with fermented grapes… fuel for the trip.

The hardwood floors and high, lofty ceilings are worth the trip to the Crowley-Wilkerson Gallery, set in the 100 block.  Hard to resist the antiques in Tammy Crowley’s store as you make the trek up those stairs!   In Gallery 25, many of our local salt-of-the-earth Ogden painters are featured – and it’s the cultural blending that makes Ogden so different than other mundane art exhibits.  You can stop in any one of our extremely Cheers-like watering holes… Brewskis, worth the walk-through to view… City Club, with the collection of Ringo, Paul, John & George… KoKoMo, a walk back through time with the most reasonably priced drink on the block… and for more color, check out the newly-relocated Hog-Den, home to our Harley-lovers!

The art stroll is unique in Ogden for several reasons:  Can you say “colorful and eclectic” street scenes…. Against the amazing backdrop of the mountains… almost all within walking distance.  You’ll never be able to see it all in one night, so be sure to come back again & again….  There you have it – a great reason to be in Ogden on that First Friday!

For a great guide, come by the Scowcroft Mansion at 795 24th Street… 801-393-1188

The Gym of Gold

Gym on Monday, gym on Tuesday, gym on Wednesday… what is that magic that keeps us coming back, day after day?  Is it the classes, full of body pumpers, sweating side by side?  Is it the elliptical machines complete with TV and music?  Is it the numerous racquetball courts, or the pool, or the indoor track?  Or is it something more…?

I have found that devotion to working out comes from several motivations, depending on the day.  Some mornings, it’s the fact that I have been up for hours, solving all of the world’s problems.  On other days, it’s the thought of the huge dinner I had the night before!  And then, the tough days… when the bed seems like a big, soft cloud wrapped around me on the cold, snowing winter morning… on those days, it is my gym friends that get me out of bed.

It’s Mike, the king of RPM… telling jokes all the way through cycling class.  Some days, I’m having trouble breathing – because laughing hysterically and working out and trying to gulp water at the same time don’t always mix.  For those who have not pursued the joys of stationary cycling, RPM is a logical, methodical and TOUGH workout, combining interval training with hills, mountains, and flat road. Designed by Les Mills, the imaginary terrain, combined with great music, makes the time fly by, and after a mere 700-1000 calorie workout, you KNOW you’ve been to the gym.

It’s Rebecca, singing to each and every song all the way through the RPM workout – or leading the parade of avid runners through the motions in the Runner’s Boot Camp.  It’s Sharlynn – cycling to the beat of her own drum – forcing us to think outside of the box and reach for that imaginary summit, or passing the guy in front to win the Tour De France.  It’s Rob, leading those Wednesday morning Body Pump classes, where there’s an inch of space between you and your neighbor… lines of mats, barbells and bodies.  It’s Dez & Angie & Sherry & Anne & Marnie… all motivating us to get our bodies in the ultimate shape.

It’s the classes… like Body Attack, Body Combat, Body this, and Body that.  It’s Y O G A… It’s lap swim… or it’s doing your own thing.

And it’s the people that we see there side by side with us, nearly every day. It’s Kelly, the amazing women’s mountain biking inspiration.  It’s Lonny, Brett & Jody.  It’s Kathy & David.  It’s Laura, Sara, Mel and the other Junior League members that make it to the gym. It’s the other Lonnie, always saying “hi” in between the 18 spin classes he’s in every week.  It’s Steve with his earplugs so the invigorating cycling music doesn’t get too loud.  It’s Justin in his Chicago Bears hat…  It’s the guy in that Canary yellow workout shirt, the little older lady who walks the track nearly every day, and that hot guy with the tatts in the tank top.  It’s the runners, the cyclists, the weightlifters, the swimmers, and the chatty back row men in the cycling classes… it’s that compelling need to stay ahead of the health curve.  People are what makes the Downtown Ogden Gold’s gym the place to spend your calories… and just another part of what makes Ogden diverse, fun and… healthy.