Some of the property owners on Logan’s Center Block are urging city officials to slow demolition plans for the Emporium and neighboring buildings.
Among the group’s concerns are that the development proposal for the area will negatively impact business and that it violates an agreement made between the city and property owners over 50 years ago.
One among those raising concerns is George Daines, the CEO of Cache Valley Bank, a Center Block property owner and brother-in-law to Logan Mayor Holly Daines.
“I don’t have a problem with making improvements on the block,” George Daines said. “But I think it has to recognize the rights of those who are there. I think they have a right to participate in making a decision.”
CREATION OF CENTER BLOCK PUBLIC PARKING
According to George Daines, property owners on Center Block came together in 1968 and provided most of the funds necessary to acquire property and build the Center Block public parking lot.
Through ordinance, the city created the Off-Street Parking Improvement District #15 and agreed to pay about 10-12 percent of the cost for creating the parking lot and to maintain it once created, due to the public value it provided.
Under that agreement, George Daines said the city simply holds the title for the parking lot property for the benefit of the property owners and the public, and the property owners are still the stakeholders for the parking lot.
In contrast, Mayor Holly Daines and Logan City Attorney Kymber Housley said the agreement between the city and the property owners was that the city would continue to provide public parking for the area but the type of parking provided could change.
According to Housley, the city has invested more in the parking than the business owners have, between the yearly maintenance expenses and a significant parking lot improvement project in the late ‘80s.
Housley and the mayor both said the goal with the parking in the new Center Block proposal is to not only match but ideally increase the number of public stalls already in existence.
“The city has no desire to take away parking,” Housley said.
CENTER BLOCK PROJECT PROPOSAL
A project proposal for Center Block was presented to the public just over a month ago. Plans included building a stage and plaza/ice rink in the gap along Main Street that would be left if the Emporium and adjacent buildings were demolished.
Behind the plaza in part of the current public parking area, a 136-unit apartment building is proposed. Under this concept, most of the remaining public parking lot would become a parking structure. A small portion of the parking along 100 West is marked as “phase II” and is not part of the current proposal.
During the September meeting where the concept plans were unveiled, Mayor Daines said the plans are just a proposal right now.
“There are many details to work out before we move forward to sign a specific development agreement,” she said at the meeting.
The city is accepting comments from the public on the proposal, but when it comes to Center Block property owners, George Daines is arguing that the agreement made in 1968 requires the city have consent from them, not just their comment.
However, Housley said this is not the case because the public parking agreement was created as a financing mechanism and did not create an entity or a board that could provide feedback to the city in this type of a scenario.
Plans for Emporium demolition are supposed to come before the Logan City Historical Preservation Committee on Monday, but George Daines wants this approval to wait until property owners have been consulted with and a final plan is made. He worries if demolition happens too soon, alternatives to the current proposal won’t be seriously considered.
Holly Daines said if approval is given she does want to move forward with demolition on the building, whether or not a decision is reached with the parking lot, because of how much money it costs the city to maintain the building even when it is sitting vacant. She also said it is possible for the plaza project to occur with or without the parking structure and apartment components.
“Our goal with the plaza is to do something that will benefit the citizens and also benefit downtown,” Holly Daines said. “And we just think this is a great plan to do that.”
PARKING STRUCTURE VERSUS PARKING LOT
According to George Daines and multiple other downtown property and business owners, including Gene Needham Sr., Vint Larsen and Tony Johnson, building a parking structure downtown creates more concerns for them than it addresses.
“Building a parking structure in our backyard doesn’t solve any problems,” said Larsen, owner of Al’s Trophies. “It congests traffic. It fills up the parking lot. The developer’s plan had no access for semi trucks to get in here and deliver furniture or the three food supply trucks that come to the restaurants every morning.”
George Daines and Johnson, who owns the building that houses The Crepery, The Waffle Iron and Belle Bridal, said their concern with the parking structure is they believe it would reduce the parking businesses currently have access to. Additionally, most of the parking on the block would be moved to the northwest corner, making it harder for customers to access businesses.
Both Larsen and Needham said they believe the plan to build a plaza downtown will hurt business more than it will help.
“You’ll take away two beautiful, great big buildings on Main Street and basically knock the front teeth out of Main Street right across from the Tabernacle to build a plaza that will be used on occasion,” Larsen said.
Although city officials have said a plaza with programming will give people a reason to come downtown, Larsen said the people who are drawn to free downtown events usually don’t spend money at shops like his. Instead, they fill up the parking lot and prevent typical customers from coming in, leading to low-sale days.
“Retail is the key to revitalizing downtown,” Larsen said. “Gatherings and stuff like that are one-day things and people are gone. You have to have a place that will draw students off-campus, draw people with disposable income to come down and go to dinner or shop. Those are the things that will revitalize downtown.”
Needham agreed with this idea. He said he didn’t believe it’s impossible for businesses to succeed in the Emporium and that the reason nothing has moved in is because the city hasn’t been offering the space to businesses.
“I just don’t think she (Mayor Daines) has faith in small retail, and that is what downtown Logan is, small retail,” Needham said.
Larsen did acknowledge that it is becoming harder and harder for brick-and-mortar retail to stay in business, which is one reason Mayor Holly Daines said she is so concerned about a project like a public plaza and housing coming to the downtown.
“Those things (a plaza, ice skating rink and programming) will bring people downtown,” Holly Daines said. “There are just not very many new retail businesses wanting to start up in downtown. The retail climate change is so dramatic that I don’t know what an anchor business could be.”