Utah State University’s Innovation Campus plans to bring the first Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom restaurant, a chain local to the western U.S., to Utah. The closest locations are currently in Boise or Rock Springs Wyoming.
The future site of Logan’s Old Chicago is at the corner of 1400 North and 800 East, on Research Park Way. Old Chicago is a franchise known for selling deep dish pizza, chicken wings, pasta and, most notably, a wide array of signature craft beers.
“We are ultimately looking for tenants we can collaborate with,” said Amanda DeRito, university public relations manager. “The university owns the land and we lease out that space. The good part is that that means the university gets to approve the tenants.”
The development group for Old Chicago includes Aggie alumni and other individuals that the University has worked with before.
“USU does not actively seek out leasing arrangements for Innovation Campus,” DeRito said. “Typically, a development group approaches USU with a proposal. The development group assumes the risk of developing a building on land they are only leasing for a specific period of time, and this group must build in accordance with the covenants, conditions and restrictions of the Innovation Campus.”
DeRito said that although USU is tax-exempt, when the university leases land to an entity that uses it for commercial purposes, a “privilege tax” is assessed.
“The city will still get the equivalent of a property tax from the use of the land, but it is not called that,” DeRito said.
The mission of USU’s Innovation Campus is to provide “an environment with facilities, services and technology as well as programs and expertise that stimulate and support the growth of research and technology-based enterprises.”
When Vivint Smart Home opened its new site on the innovation campus, USU President Noelle Cockett attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, and in 2017, Cockett said that it is important for “Cache Valley to create these kinds of opportunities for workforce development and employment.”
Vivint joined the Space Dynamics Lab and what was once Convergys and LetterPress Software Inc., at the University Research Park. However, as those businesses have left, the name of Research Park has changed and seeing commercial tenants pop up may look jarring to some.
Critics of the Innovation Campus have questioned how call centers like Convergys and Vivint fit into this mission. Commercial tenants like Old Chicago will likely also receive such backlash, but DeRito said it is part of the original master plan.
“The Innovation Campus master plan calls for some commercial businesses that provide amenities to the other tenants at Innovation Campus,” DeRito said.
She said that the stretch of land behind Vivint Campus has the potential to be filled with commercial property that will enhance the lives of those who work and intern on the Innovation Campus.
Currently, a bus system is available to take individuals from the main USU campus to the Innovation Campus. People who work on the Innovation Campus frequent nearby businesses like Lee’s Marketplace, Panda Express and the new Del Taco location.
While potential tenants must go through a screening process, there is also an assortment of guidelines when developing on the Innovation Campus.
“Each building should attempt to show a subtle quality and professionalism rather than a loud or commercial appearance,” the campus guidelines state.
A blog on the Office of Research website reads, “What makes a town ‘cool?’ Great Restaurants? Lots of outdoor space? An active night life? Innovation Campus wants to know what you think!”
Structuring the future of the Innovation Campus is important to the university.
“We are very much committed to providing a healthy environment for tenants to build their businesses and, in the end, provide economic development opportunities for the community at large and for the University community specifically,” USU spokesman Tim Vitale wrote in an email to The Herald Journal when the Vivint building was announced in 2016.
Other research parks across the country are known for bringing companies in to enhance the area. The University of Illinois has Verizon, the University of Virginia imports food from various nations, and the University of Birmingham prides itself on incubating small businesses.
One issue with Old Chicago taking residency on Innovation Campus has to do with the alcohol the restaurant serves. USU has long been a dry campus, however, exceptions have been made for The Bull’s Head Grille located inside Blue Square.
“Once USU leases the property, the university does not intervene in private business operations,” DeRito said. “It is up to Old Chicago whether they wish to apply for a liquor license, and we aren’t involved in that process.”
The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control sets proximity restrictions for restaurants serving alcohol near “community locations” which are defined as churches, schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries.
Restaurants may not be located within 300 feet measured by pedestrian travel or 200 feet in a straight line.
The D. Craig Aston Park is part of the College of Agriculture and is located just over 400 feet away. Depending on whether the door to Old Chicago faces north or south can give or take away a few feet.