This is the second of three stories in a series about the dynamic of regional neighborhoods in Provo and the varying issues each face.
Robbie Potter is proof you can be a renter in Provo and be engaged in your community.
Potter has lived in a rental home for the past eight years. As a neighborhood chairman and area representative, Potter has said he has learned a lot about the city and his neighbors.
Potter lives in the Dixon neighborhood that is part of the central area of Provo. He represents the residents when there are concerns at both the Planning Commission and Municipal Council.
As part two in a three-part series on Provo’s 34 neighborhoods, Potter takes us on a tour of what’s happening in central and downtown Provo.
The center areas includes; Dixon, Downtown, East Bay, Franklin, Franklin South, Joaquin, Maeser, North Park and Timp neighborhoods.
“We are mostly built out,” Potter said. “There is an overwhelming feeling of ‘how do we revitalize?’”
For instance, in the Maeser neighborhood people rent for a while and look at what availability there is to stay long term. There are many renters in the central city area. In fact, 70 percent of the Dixon neighborhood are rentals, Timp neighborhood is 90 percent rentals, and Franklin is 85 percent rentals.
According to Shannon Bingham, Timp neighborhood chairwoman, while Timp is the smallest geographical neighborhood in Provo — 9.5 blocks — it is the most walkable neighborhood.
“Its walk score is 88/100, 90 and above is a walker’s paradise,” Bingham said. “We have many schools and amenities (library, post office, doctors, stores, rec center) so close, the neighbors rarely drive and can bike and walk most everywhere.”
In general, the central neighborhoods are the most historical as well. That includes seven registered historical homes, the Historical Courthouse, the Provo City Center Temple, and several notable buildings downtown including the Knight Building, Harman House building and more.
With the amount of development going on, downtown residents are keen to make sure the development is a positive for the neighborhood and maintains the character of downtown that’s inviting to the pedestrian and bikers.
“Related to walkable area, we’re struggling to get crosswalk improvements (crossing to rec center over 500 North, and over 500 West),” Bingham said. “We haven’t been able to get much help from public works to get some noticeable improvements on 500 West. They are taking away the underpass with promise to make the intersection better, but still haven’t seen the improvements that would be needed to make it whole.”
Potter noted the Joaquin neighborhood seems to have an influx of young professionals that are taking up the banner and getting involved in city issues.
Celeste Kennard, chairwoman of the Joaquin neighborhood, is proud of the historical importance her neighborhood shares with the city.
“The name (Joaquin) is different,” Kennard said. “It comes from the Indian brave that the Franciscan friars who came through the valley in the 1500-1600s had as a guide for the friars.”
“The young boy was asked to lead them through Spanish Fork Canyon, so they named him Joaquin, and that was the name of the elementary school that used to stand between 500 and 600 North and 500 to 700 East,” Kennard added.
Joaquin used to be the place where all the Brigham Young University professors lived and most professionals. Now it has a heavy student presence.
“It’s always brimming with new ideas, people are coming together to work out new solutions,” Kennard said. “People are always willing to put in time to do research.”
Some of the issues facing the central neighborhoods include zoning, parking and the rising cost of homes.
As part of the downtown ambiance, Kennard says everyone she knows agrees that the big trees along east Center Street and through the neighborhoods are their favorite part of the neighborhood.
“They actually had a city rule that you had to put in a certain number of trees per square foot of city front, it was kind of a new thing back then,” Kennard said. “The most frequent service project is to plant 20-30 trees to make sure when old ones go down that they’re replaced.”
On the other side of University Avenue but still in the central neighborhoods area are the Franklin and Franklin South neighborhoods.
Michael Merz, the Franklin South chairman, said the biggest issue his area is contending with is growth.
Merz is the LDS stake president in the area and said that, “growth is taking place with some of the FrontRunner area as they are looking at future improvements of 400-700 apartment/condos coming from UTA in 2-3 years.”
For Merz, that equals about two new LDS wards.
Merz added the Provo Mall renovation is bringing 200 more apartments and condos.
Another problem for his neighborhood is the number of transients coming in on FrontRunner train from Salt Lake City.
“There is a lot of turnover and transients.” Merz said. “The stake of 3,000 has over half of its population turnover every year.”
This area of the city needs stability. Families need to stay for longer time periods and engage in the community, Merz added.
The East Bay neighborhood is a unique area that features FrontRunner, the East Bay Golf Course, restaurants, retail space and the Provo Towne Centre mall.
Potter is proud of the history his Dixon neighborhood brings to the city as the original site of Fort Utah. It also has the third oldest LDS stake in the entire church.
However, there is much upgrading and refreshing that needs to happen with the old homes in the downtown area.
“We get one chance every 40 years to make it better,” Potter said.
Potter added the amenities the downtown Provo offers are what keeps people here and brings new families to town.
“We live in the heart of Provo,” Potter said. “The art and music scene is thriving and drawing people in. The Provo River Trail is considered the jewel of Provo. We have so much.”
Potter adds that living here has opened his eyes to all of the things the central neighborhoods offer that makes Provo a place people want to be.