It’s hard to miss the surge of creativity happening in downtown Ogden right now. And chances are, it has something to do with the Nine Rails Project. Sara Meess is the Senior Project Coordinator in the Business Development Division for Ogden City and has overseen much of what has been going on with the project. It stems from a grant the city received from the National Endowment for the Arts to hatch a master plan to step up the arts in downtown Ogden from 24th to 26th Streets between Madison and Grant Avenues. “We want to bring arts more into the public realm,” Meess said.
Meess noted there was a bit of a drag between the Jefferson District and the Historic 25th Street and Junction areas – the area needed some attention and this project is giving that part of the city the attention it deserves and people are noticing.
The city was awarded the grant in the summer of 2015 and has been working with the city council to create a plan to increase vibrancy in the area – bringing in homeowners and business owners, both of which have been very supportive, Meess said. The official plan is still under consideration from the City Council, but the pilot project to create large street murals the past few weeks has been more than a hit. Different groups like the Rotary Club and Boys and Girls Club volunteered formally, but others in the city came forward to paint the murals around the block of 25th and Adams. Meess said there were more than 200 volunteers. She loved when passers-by would take a paint swipe and feel like they were a part of the great project. “It’s been really fun to watch,” Meess said.
Two businesses are also sprucing up new spaces in the creative district. The Argo House is being renovated on 25th and Porter and will house artists and those who want to create. The Monarch Project, in the home of the old Senor Frogs on 25th and Adams, is a project by prominent Ogden Developer Thaine Fischer. The building has been vacant for over 10 years and will be a hub for arts and entertainment in Ogden. The ribbon cutting was held last month as the official ribbon cutting of the street painting project.
Meess said many communities have a creative district, so the idea of Ogden starting one is valid, especially considering the rich history of Historic 25th Street with eclectic businesses and buildings, including art galleries. “It seems like the perfect fit,” Meess said. The big step with the Nine Rails project is to make art and the opportunity to create art available for the whole community.
They will continue to work through the master plan with different projects and will be working more heavily with the Ogden Downtown Alliance whose mission is to “increase economic vitality and community vibrancy throughout Ogden’s Central Business District,” according to the about section of their Facebook Page. Meess said she looks forward to using the partnership is a bigger way now.
Things like the street murals will hopefully continue because of the success of first one on 25th and Adams. “It’s meant to temporary (the street painting) so we will have to see how it goes,” Meess added.
Property owners are also taking part in the synergistic process, she said. “Everyone seems committed to help each other out,” she said.
The grant itself was for planning and now those plans are starting to come to fruition. Residents and businesses will be seeing those plans turn into action and that will be exciting, Meess noted.