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Developers, community discuss Union Station's fate

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jun 15, 2023

OGDEN, Utah — The fate of Ogden’s Historic Union Station lies in the hands of the community after the city council made a $5,562,044 purchase of the 8.6 acres of land under Union Station in early December.

Thursday night, the community was invited to share stories about their experiences with the station and its history and to give input on what they think its future should look like.

“The Union Station is an icon. It's known throughout the world,” said Lee Witten, who has a personal history with the building.

“Going all the way back to 1941 when I was born, my father was a Union Pacific conductor and my mother worked at the café here in the station,” said Witten.

It’s not hard to hear many others with stories and connections to Union Station in the Ogden community.

“Multiple generations of people have worked for the railroad, so it’s in their DNA,” said Steve Jones.

Jones organized a group called ‘Save Union Station,” which he said has been meeting every Friday since the news of the city’s plan to redevelop the land it sits on came out.

“Anything that does happen has to be done in a sensitive way in a way that if you will celebrates what we had in the past,” said Jones.

Director of Community and Economic Development Brandon Cooper said community input is a crucial part of the city and developers’ planning process.

“We wanted to start out at the very beginning of our development planning with getting community engagement, with getting an understanding of what is important to them,” said Cooper.

He said history is at the forefront of their ideas for the station and the land around it.

“We don't want to sell out the history of Ogden,” said Cooper, “We want to leverage it, we want to expand it, we want to expose more people to it.

He said it’s too early to know what that expansion will look like.

Whatever it may include, Witten said he hopes it doesn’t overshadow the building.

“I know there's interest in developing commercial establishments, possibly housing that sort of thing,” said Witten, “I would hope that would be as far away from the station itself as possible, not to take away from the importance of this rail center.”

He and Jones said they’d also like to see the Frontrunner system or Amtrak come to the tracks.

“Everyone really feels very strongly that Union Station, the building needs to be an active railroad station again,” said Jones.

Witten said he hopes those involved in the changes will stick to their word in looking deeply into the station’s history as they move forward in planning.

“Be knowledgeable, be educated about the history of railroading so that you can preserve it and make it live for future generations,” he said.