VINEYARD -- The old Geneva Steel Mill, once considered the economic engine of Utah County, only remains today as a field of the future. On Friday, that land came full circle with the major announcement of a 1,700 acre master-planned community project to be known as @geneva, under the development direction of Anderson Development.
The community is projected to have 26,000 residents, an intermodal hub, a major town center, 2 million square feet of retail space, 3.5 million square feet of office space, lake-front properties and 5 million square feet of industrial space. Entertainment venues will be lead out by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and Utah Valley University.
The Miller Group will build a Megaplex theater featuring 13 digital theaters, including a five-story 2D/3D digital IMAX screen. The theater will include D-Box motion seats, VIP luxury lounge and premium seating, gourmet food and beverage service, private event party and business meeting space, special needs services and more. Weather permitting, the theaters will be ready to show the last movie in the "Hobbit" series around Christmas of 2014, according to Greg Miller, CEO.
"I love events like this. It's a celebration of free enterprise," Miller said.
Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland, shared the same sentiments as he talked about walking the Geneva area the first week he was president.
"Very early on I knew we were going to have to find more land for our campus to expand," Holland. Once they found the right partner in Anderson Development, UVU was able to get a redevelopment agency and purchased 100 acres to be used for intramural fields. Holland said every day he carries with him the spirit of Wilson Sorensen, the first president of the school, because of how Sorensen looked to the future during his stewardship.
"We have to be as good to future generations as Wilson Sorensen was to us," Holland said. With that, he noted the university now has option on 125 more acres and is in the process of raising the money.
"That is a minimum for where this university is headed," Holland said. "This is a historical moment as the vision unfolds before your eyes." He noted, "We could have one of the largest intramural programs in the U.S."
Day's Market also announced they will build a grocery store in the community to service the homes and apartments currently under development in the area.
Vincent Mikolay, representing Gov. Gary Herbert and the Governor's Office of Economic Development said, "It is rare you get to stand at the crossroads of something great. Change is inevitable, but progress is optional."
Mikolay stood in for Herbert, who attended the funeral of slain Draper police officer Sgt. Derek Johnson. Mikolay noted the governor's theme for the state is "Change."
"The future is now. It's important to embrace the vision," Mikolay said, "This will represent a vital hub for Utah County."
The vital hub will grow from a small agricultural bedroom community once populated by a few families. Vineyard Mayor Randy Farnworth says he remembers the day he was put in as mayor.
"I remember driving around and counted. We only had 20 houses in Vineyard," Farnworth said. "Now I can't count the houses."
Farnworth noted that when Geneva Steel went out of business, the city fathers had no idea what they were going to do with an empty steel mill. After the mill was dismantled, they wondered what they would do with the land that looked like a bomb site with concrete mounds, hazardous waste and other debris.
"It's interesting what comes from being a small town mayor. This is my first rodeo," Farnworth said.
Developer Gerald Anderson said he has had hundreds of thousands of obstacles to get through with the property, but after hazardous waste cleanup of more than 900 acres and support from builders and others with a vision for the future, @geneva is ready to go.
"This is the largest privately owned brown field site in the U.S.," Anderson said. What @geneva has laid out for that field will bring business, housing, educational opportunities and up to 20,000 jobs, he continued
Orem city's leaders are also supportive of what is happening with @geneva.
Jason Bench, city planner, said it is his hope that Orem and Vineyard will blend seamlessly along the Geneva Road Corridor. "It is our vision to see that area develop with high-tech firms, low-impact industrial uses and retail. We feel the redevelopment will be a win-win for both communities."
Orem is currently reviewing both the General Plan land use designations and uses for M1, M2, and CM zones that are generally west of the I-15 corridor. There is an ordinance before the Orem City Council that proposes to take out high-impact uses from these zones which are primarily located along Geneva Road. The intent of this update is to ensure a compatibility of uses on both sides of the corridor, consistent with the vision and direction desired by the Town of Vineyard and representative of Orem's current General Plan.
Interim Director of Development Services Bill Bell said he anticipates that Orem will benefit from the redevelopment of the Geneva Steel property as local residents will live, work and play in both communities.
Orem has long-standing agreements to provide water and sewer services to parts of Vineyard. While only a small portion of the redevelopment falls within Orem's service areas, the two communities have a good working relationship to address current and future needs.
Chris Tschirki, Orem Public Works Director, said agreements are in place to ensure that needs are being met without subsidization, noting that "Vineyard pays its proportionate share."
Anderson said they wanted to do something responsible, but didn't know what they wanted to do. The property could have been sold to a toilet paper making factory or to a group who wanted to make it a dump. However, he believed the site was to be used from something special. With UVU's plans, Vineyard could be a college town. And that town will have a 150 acre town center, high density housing and offices, with buildings between three and nine stories. @geneva will also offer 90 acres of lake front with improved beaches.
"Look around and remember this day," Anderson said. "Embrace the vision."