Jun. 13--OGDEN -- When two of the long-awaited anchors for The Junction outdoor mall open here Friday night, Ogden will not only hope for commercial success.
The city will bank on it.
Five years after buying and demolishing the Ogden City Mall in the heart of downtown -- and sinking more than $40 million into the project -- Ogden will finally see whether its gamble pays off.
The Salomon Center, a city-owned amusement and recreation hub, and Larry H. Miller's Megaplex 13 open Friday. Together with the Treehouse Museum, which opened last year at the north end of The Junction, they are designed to be people magnets so investors will follow with office buildings, retail shops and condominiums.
Dave Harmer, director of community development for the city, sees The Junction not as a risky gamble -- as critics contend -- but a "real opportunity."
"It's an investment in our city that is spurring the revival of the downtown," said Harmer.
Jake Boyer, president of The Boyer Co., which is building much of The Junction and will share lease revenue with the land owner, the city of Ogden, says he's more bullish than ever.
"It's really going to revitalize downtown Ogden."
Two Class-A office buildings are under construction and work has begun on the first of two condominium towers.
Property Reserve Inc., the real estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expects to open Ensign Plaza South, a four-story, 75,000-square-foot office building at the northeast corner of The Junction, across from the temple, in December.
At the south end, Boyer is building a four-story, 65,000-square-foot office building that will house Wells Fargo Bank and the Ogden office of the law firm Van Cott Bagley Cornwall and McCarthy. It is about 45 percent leased and should be completed in October, said project manager Brad Galvez.
Boyer said it has lined up a Mexican restaurant and several retail tenants, which will be announced soon. Apartments will be built above the retail shops, and construction should be underway early next year.
A six-story Earnshaw Condominium tower began construction this spring. Every condo is sold, although developer David Earnshaw is still lining up retailers such as a grocery store for the bottom floor.
A second condominium tower is planned by Stuart Reid, who was Harmer's predecessor as Ogden director of community development, and is now turning his hand to development and real estate leasing. Reid, who also works as a consultant for Ogden, said the seven-story, 63-condo tower, Ashton Square, should be under construction this fall.
The condos will range from the size of a large apartment to a large house, and will begin at $350,000 and top out around $1 million. Already, Reid said, he has potential buyers for nearly half the condos.
Reid, along with Mayor Matthew Godfrey, was one of the architects of the notion that Ogden partner with private industry to build the new mall -- a notion forced by the fact no developer was interested in doing it alone.
The city bought and demolished the old mall for $10 million, but the cost escalated to $19.5 million after figuring in interest and a $5 million legal settlement when the city knocked down a building it didn't own.
The Salomon Center cost the city roughly $18.5 million and the plaza outside was nearly $1 million.
Altogether, Harmer figures the city has invested more than $40 million.
The debt will be repaid with an increase in property tax revenues from the mall, as well as with lease revenue from the Boyer buildings and the Salomon Center, run by Gold's Gym and Fat Cats.
The city figures The Junction will be worth $182 million when completed in 2010, and will provide more than $290,000 in sales tax revenue and $3.2 million in property taxes to the city. The property taxes, however, will go to debt repayment through 2015.
Amy Wicks, a City Council member who opposed the 2005 financing for the project, said she nonetheless is cheering its success.
Not only must it act as a catalyst, but it also must succeed financially if the city is to avoid spending money it makes off Business Depot Ogden to pay for mall debt. The money is desperately needed for infrastructure improvements, she said.
"Even if I don't agree with the funding mechanism or how we got here, we're here and we need to work together to make it successful," said Wicks. "There is a lot hinging on this."
THE JUNCTION SNEAK PREVIEW
--What: The Salomon Center and Megaplex 13. Visitors who buy $25 wristbands will be able to bowl, play miniature golf, ride bumper cars, see a movie (space available), have a free buffet meal, and check out the FlowRider pool, iFly wind tunnel or iRock climbing wall. (Online wristband buyers will be entered in drawings for the last three attractions.)
--Where: The Junction, 23rd Street and Grant Avenue in downtown Ogden.
--When: Friday from 5 to 10 p.m.
--Information: Go to www.envisionogden.org.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Salt Lake Tribune Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.