In a unanimous vote (sans Mark Anderson, who was absent), the Logan Municipal Council voted to appropriate $1.25 million in funding to acquire several vacant buildings near the corner of 300 North and Main on Tuesday.
Kirk Jensen, the economic development director and redevelopment agency executive director, said the area has been a blight to Logan for more than 15 years, and the same sentiment was echoed by council members and citizens alike.
“That property has sat in its current state with no one operating businesses there (for years),” Jensen said to the council. “But more than that, as the mayor has talked about over the past several weeks, the city is moving away from what it had proposed earlier as far as the Center Block project and no longer envisions that there would be a large multifamily structure or parking structure.”
Part of the funding to acquire the parcels, amounting to just over an acre, will come from Redevelopment Agency grants that were initially intended for the Center Block development, mentioned above.
“We have shifted gears a little bit,” Logan Mayor Holly Daines said at the meeting.
The city already owns a small portion of the area at the intersection. Jensen said the plan to acquire the other vacant buildings is a multi-targeted approach to both eliminate blight and revitalize downtown and the need for higher density housing.
The hope is demolishing the vacant buildings will entice developers to purchase the parcels and design a mixed-use space, incorporating multifamily housing similar to what was in the first Center Block proposal.
The parcel “hasn’t sold, and it is an area that makes us look bad,” Councilmember Jeannie Simmonds said. “I mean, think about the number of recreational vehicles that you have seen traveling on Main Street past that place going up 400 North to go to Logan Canyon, or coming the other way. Wouldn’t it be nice for it to be something really amazing, for all of us to be proud of?”
Simmonds said she was initially reluctant to approve the plan, but with the Mill Creek housing development’s approval (going in on 100 S. 100 West), another multifamily housing at the 300 North parcels would serve as a Northern “bookend” to the Center Plaza currently in planning.
The announcement of the option to purchase the land from the Needham Family Partnership drew some censure from locals, who were concerned with spending taxpayer dollars on a not fully developed project, alongside support for the decision, including Keegan Garrity.
“First off, I’m excited that we’re doing something about downtown,” he said. “These buildings have been in this condition since I moved here, and so I’m pleased to see we’re moving forward and trying to make our downtown look better.”
Garrity also said he represents several others in the community who are concerned with the city purchasing land then not completing plans, such as with the Emporium and two other times land was purchased for a new library (where the Hampton Inn on 200 N. sits, and the old V1 Grizzly Station).
“If we work our way up Main Street, starting across from the tabernacle, we just don’t have a good track record,” Garrity said. “I’m just concerned we might be putting the cart before the horse.”
According to an email sent to council, resident Tyler Riggs agreed and questioned if the Needhams had paid the appropriate fees related to keeping vacant storefronts downtown.
Jensen said the two buildings in question — the former Logan Army Navy Surplus store and adjacent automotive part store — had accrued $1,800 in vacant-lot fees since they were added to the city’s registry in 2018, and the charges have been paid in full.
Resident Gail Yost voiced concern over the price of the lot, which has fluctuated over the years, especially due to the environmental issues such as storage of hazardous materials and a buried tank the Needhams had to deal with before selling the property.
“Why aren’t we paying just the market value on the tax roll since it’s so blighted already, and it has been for a long time?” she asked the council. “I think we have the right as a city to just pay the lowest amount that we should because the owners have not done anything in years to make that part of the city good and upgraded.”
The environmental aspect had been of concern to Simmonds, as well, but paperwork of the cleanup had been submitted to the council by the property managers before the vote to acquire the property.