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Genelle Pugmire

Orem City Council got its first look Tuesday at beginning processes for two projects that will eventually come together to redefine Orem’s city center.

The first project includes a redesign of the blocks around city hall that have been called the downtown of Orem.

The downtown proposal comes on the heels of the council-approved State Street Master plan that breaks the city into pods or districts, including business, arts and the city center, for starters.

Residents will get their first chance to offer ideas and to look at the process at a meeting to be scheduled in October. Postcard invitations will be mailed with the meeting’s information and will also be shared on the city’s website and Facebook page.

The process and visioning for the city center building will go through several phases including public open houses and opportunities for input, administrative tours to other civic locations throughout the Wasatch Front, brain storming session, more public input and then final planning and approval from the council.

The first issue will be refining the zoning ordinance for the blocks around the city center. There are three philosophies that will be addressed: the existing assets, having extensive dialogue with residents and stakeholders, and then the implementation when information gathering is completed.

According to Kelly Gillman, of CRSA Architecture and Design, the visioning process will be first.

“The State Street Master Plan will be our guide through the process,” Gillman said.

Suzie Petheram, lead manager on the project, said the company will be looking at and assessing land use and technical components. They will also work with committees on infrastructure and regional transportation issues.

“The main purpose in developing the City Center District is to begin the implementation of the State Street Master Plan,” said Jason Bench with Development Services. “The City Center District is one of five districts outlined in the State Street Master Plan. The City Center District is the north end of the ‘downtown’ for Orem we envision. University Place, which is currently making major improvements, will act as the south end of our future downtown area.”

Petheram said the planning also includes looking at the long-term infrastructure and the city center district, perhaps beyond 50 years.

“If we don’t get this in place you’ll kind of get a potpourri look,” Petheram said.

CRSA will design three scenarios from which to work from as they proceed with comments from the community, business owners, stakeholders and the administration.

“The City Center District plan will be the beginning of many future opportunities for citizens to become involved in the future growth and overall development of the city,” Bench said.

The second issue revolves around what to do with the city center building itself.

According to Brenn Bybee, assistant city manager, the issue of constructing a new city building is not if but when. Seismically it is completely out of compliance.

“We don’t meet any standard of safety,” Bybee said. “We were told not to walk but to run out of the building.”

To help with the process and project design the city has brought on JRCA Architects.

Jim Child, a JRCA representative, said the first reason for the design would be to enhance the delivery of municipal services and add to the viability of State Street.

Child and Bybee note there are several options to look at in the early stages, even a mixed-use concept of public and private office spaces. 

In the meantime the city must decide from whence the money will come to pay for this future big bill. It may not come immediately, but it will come within the decade most likely.

“These two distinct efforts are in the core of the city,” said Jamie Davidson, city manager. “We want one to run a little earlier than the other because eventually they will meld together.”

Davidson said all of this is not set in stone, but the city recognizes there is a need.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a plan if we don’t move forward with it,” Davidson said.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801)344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.