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Orem development on economic growth binge

By Genelle Pugmire daily Herald - | May 15, 2016
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Construction workers work on Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. New developments have been popping up across the city of Orem in the spring months of 2016. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road is pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. In 2016, there have been new apartments, storefronts and other developments in the city of Orem. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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New apartments on busy Center Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. 

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New developments on 1500 West Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. Developments such as these, including apartments as well as storefronts and schools, have been on the works for Orem since the beginning of the year. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Construction workers work on Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. New developments have been popping up across the city of Orem in the spring months of 2016. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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New developments on 1500 West Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. Developments such as these, including apartments as well as storefronts and schools, have been on the works for Orem since the beginning of the year. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Construction workers work on Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. New developments have been popping up across the city of Orem in the spring months of 2016. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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New apartments on busy Center Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. On top of apartments, new storefronts, schools and so on are in the works in Orem. 

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Construction workers work on Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. New developments have been popping up across the city of Orem in the spring months of 2016. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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New apartments on busy Center Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. On top of apartments, new storefronts, schools and so on are in the works in Orem. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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New apartments on busy Center Street are pictured on Friday, May 13, 2016, in Orem. 

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Construction workers work on Telos School, a new building on Geneva Road on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Orem. New developments have been popping up across the city of Orem in the spring months of 2016. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

If economic growth was a nine-inning baseball game, then nationally and locally it’s the bottom of the sixth inning, according to Natalie Gochnour. We are still climbing.

Orem is no exception to that massive growth and is seemingly hitting the ball out of the park.

Gochnour is an economic expert from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. She indicates the country is still climbing in economic growth and is in the fourth longest economic expansion in the country’s history — now in its seventh year.

According to Ryan Clark, Orem’s economic development manager, the city is still flourishing when it comes to retail, office and housing growth.

“I thought it was going to slow down, but it hasn’t,” Clark said. “There are a lot of positives like at University place.”

Clark noted since March 23 there are approximately 912 apartment units under construction and more on the table.

Some Orem residents say they are suffering apartment fatigue. To alleviate those ills, the city council put a moratorium on apartment building along major corridors in the city. But that hasn’t stopped some heavy duty building elsewhere.

Utah Transit Authority’s intermodal hub west of Interstate 15 at Utah Valley University has three housing developments underway around it. University Downs complex is one of the three.

The University Downs complex includes 316 student housing apartments. It features an eight-story parking garage, six-story amenity building, six-story married student housing building, and a 10-story student housing tower. Grading is currently underway.

Other apartments around the hub include the Parkway Lofts which features 332 apartment units, and Promenade Place that includes 120 apartment units.

Mayor Richard Brunst, took the opportunity, along with touting the substantial housing growth, to speak to the importance of the Provo Orem Transportation Improvement Project.

“The need for having the Bus Rapid Transit system for the future is manifested in the number of units being built around the modal hub,” he said.

Brunst notes those moving to these complexes are typically the ones who would use public transportation.

Clark said employees in Orem’s Planning and Development office, Engineering and Public Works are all keeping busy because of the growth that is happening.

“All of these current projects are within one or two years of completion,” Clark said. “Orem is not dying, it continues to grow and reinvent itself.”

Clark is quick to mention the State Street Master Plan and the changes throughout the city coming from that over the next decade or so.

The constant building and economic growth is also bringing jobs to the area. Orem and the rest of the county have proven they have what employers want, according to Councilwoman Debby Lauret.

“I’m really excited for the future and attracting a high-tech workforce,” Lauret said. “Our language abilities and work ethic attract business to the area. With two universities to pull from, employers find this a great place to work and live.”

Lauret notes that language skills and the numbers of people who have lived abroad in Utah County are a strength, and make moving to Orem a big plus.

“Our retail base continues to be strong and we’re adding venues we’ve never had before,” Clark said. “Housing stock brings additional money and work force.”

The construction or redevelopment of office buildings and retail spaces are equal to the number of housing units and are impressive on their own merit.

“It is imperative that Orem renews itself,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Hale is also an Orem resident. He grew up in the city and graduated from Orem High School.

“Orem’s been doing some amazing things,” Hale said. “It has lead Utah Valley in economic development for the last 40 years. Now other communities want to have what Orem has. I salute community leaders for trying to get rejuvenation going. Keep Orem modern and attractive to businesses and residents.”

Twelve new retail and restaurant spaces have opened or are close to opening in just the past month.

And then there is University Place, the cornerstone of economic growth in Orem. Over the next few years a complete transformation of the 123 acres will be completed included high-rise office buildings, apartments, retail space, a park and hotel. The Aston apartments are filling up almost as fast as they can be built.

“I marvel while touring the apartments at University Place that college professors, business professionals and seniors are adopting a new more carefree lifestyle by renting these beautiful units,” Brunst said.

Just north of Costco on 800 South and 650 East, a new automatic car wash in going in. At the old Trafalga Fun Center a developer is marketing a two- to three-story 60,000 square foot office building, and there is the Telos School, W.W. Clyde Headquarters, Jive office building, three warehouse expansions and so much more.

“I am excited for the future and new growth of a vibrant community with all of the reinvestment into our great city,” Brunst said.

While Orem continues to build and reinvent itself there is still much work to do and the city council is working to address some important issues.

“Our economy has recovered well from the downturn, and upcoming transportation infrastructure upgrades have us poised for continued success,” said Councilman Sam Lentz.

“The next big hurdle Orem needs to overcome is how to resolve our challenges with UTOPIA. All of our tax dollars fund the existing debt, but less than half the city is able to access the network. The Council unanimously agreed to make this one of this year’s top priorities, but we need to be willing to take real action. Allowing others to connect is not only a matter of fairness, it will also accelerate improvements to quality of life and economic development.”

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