Ogden City says blighted neighborhood a chance for redevelopment

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OGDEN, Utah - An Ogden neighborhood is being officially deemed blighted. Many houses in the old part of the city have fallen into disrepair, but the designation opens the door to redevelopment.

Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell said the nine-blocks from 23rd Street to 26th Street and Madison Avenue to Jackson are a neighborhood they’ve been wanting to spruce up for a while.

Last month, an independent study officially deemed the area blighted, meaning the percent of area in disrepair and dilapidated outweighed the area that was being kept up.

“We picked some blocks in the east central area that have had some struggles over the years,” Caldwell said. “An urban renewal area gives us access to some additional funds, different ways, tools to go in and improve those areas.”

Ogden City has done a number of urban renewal projects, but to this point they’ve all been focused on commercial and economic growth. This is the first time they’ve looked at redeveloping a residential neighborhood.

Caldwell said under the residential redevelopment program, the city would look for ways to encourage home ownership, and renovate many of the run-down homes.

“We’ve seen some studies that show about 60 percent of home ownership really stabilizes a neighborhood,” Caldwell said. “People are more inclined to get involved in their local PTA at their schools and do neighborhood watch, and do clean up projects.”

Much of the issue comes from the age of the homes, but also who owns them. Caldwell said many of the homes are rentals, and landlords are not inclined to make extreme repairs. It’s something Wes Hebdon, who lives in the blighted neighborhood, has seen firsthand.

“They can only keep up with so much,” Hebdon said. “I know a lot of the water lines are starting to go bad. In a way it kind of deters people from wanting to be in the area, seeing the condition that they’re in.”

The study showed close to 80 percent of the homes did not meet current health and safety codes, and would be considered unsafe. Under urban renewal, the city could use eminent domain to force fix problem areas, but Caldwell said they’d prefer to work with private developers through loans, and grants.

“We really do need to build partnerships with the private industry,” Caldwell said. “So we always look for the private, to come in and make it an appealing place for them to want to do business.”

The independent study is the first step in a long process. Next, the city will hold a public meeting to discuss the findings of the study, and plans for redevelopment. That meeting is scheduled for May 24.