The once little town just west of Orem and north of Provo has exploded into one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and the limitations of 2020 has not stopped it.
Vineyard, once a township of about 480 people, has grown to nearly 18,000 in the past 20 years. In 2020, official ground was laid for a whole new city center, lakeside boardwalk and a FrontRunner intermodal hub.
Perhaps the biggest story of the year for this progressive and upwardly mobile city is the new city center itself.
Mayor Julie Fullmer, the city’s first woman mayor, takes a look back at 2020 and the top stories that ended the year with a miracle.
A new downtown
The City Council approved the City Center Code in January of 2020, and the RDA board appropriated significant funding, around $200 million, toward the project.
“This is where our heritage and the innovations of the future coalesce,” Fullmer said. “We are laying the groundwork for our ambitious downtown project where everything is centered around people.”
“There are fewer negative socio-economic factors and greater opportunity for brick and mortar businesses when people can traverse quickly and conveniently to jobs, education, medical facilities, stores, parks, and back home again,” Fullmer continued.
The design converges around improved safety, human interaction, local economics and healthier living.
It is focused on tailored zoning selection for shoppers where companies can model experience over materialism and bring a sense of destination that is full of ease and convenience, according to Fullmer
“These connections build and attract talent within communities,” she said. “Vineyard has strategically removed barriers of exclusive housing perimeters and provided deliberate inclusive housing options that encourage multi-faceted lifestyles throughout the city and in the heart of the downtown. People want to live where they can work, relax, recreate and indulge in nature and entertainment alike.”
Placing people and businesses together in a walkable mixed-use center where jobs, housing, higher, education, wide-open spaces, world-class transportation and investments are coordinated within a travel destination is a stabilizing smart city design.
“It will become the shape of what Vineyard is known for within a short time,” Fullmer added.
How Vineyard took preventative steps to ensure resident and business success during COVID-19 is also in the top stories of their year.
“Vineyard’s city has been growing rapidly,” Fullmer said. “The community has a redevelopment agency that has been tasked with cleaning the environment and revitalizing the area, and is sustained through economic development.”
“As we have doubled our efforts to that revitalizing effort, Vineyard’s budding economy started emerging within the last few years,” she continued. “As the pandemic began, these small new businesses were getting their footing.”
Fullmer added: “If they had not been able to rapidly shift their business models, the success of the city, and opportunities for building a more diverse stronger community would have significantly diminished. We have had great partnerships with our businesses and tremendous support from our residents and nearby communities.”
One of the top five stories of 2020 for Vineyard is the success they have had in negotiating critical infrastructure investments with state, federal and private entities.
One major accomplishment by the year’s end was the completion and ribbon cutting for the Center Street Overpass held Dec. 19.
“Vineyard has been a beautiful landing spot for so much of the growth coming into the region,” Fullmer said. “For many years, the borders of our city have been lined with infrastructure paths lined by state, county and private entities with historically large federal rights.”
“It’s been a hard fight for the few mayors and councils of Vineyard to open these areas in order to move people, and invite industry into the city,” she noted. “In the last 3 years, we have closed contracts with federal, state, local and private companies that have opened nearly all access points.”
Growing at 10,000%, as shown in the recent census, makes these points of entry critical, according to Fullmer.
“The opening of Center Street marks achievement of the hard work that has gone into these efforts,” Fullmer said. “This specific entry point was negotiated in the Supreme Court and ensured in recent legislation at the state. Our construction team even worked through the night to keep on time.”
This project has been touched by several hardworking individuals, many trips to Washington, D.C, and many meetings at the state, according to Fullmer. She called it Vineyard’s “Christmas miracle.”
The final ending — both visually and physically — of the old U.S. Steel Geneva Plant is also one of the area’s big stories of the year.
With that ending, it opens so many opportunities for Vineyard with its coordination with development and infrastructure. Most importantly, the land was once known for its richness and natural beauty, which brought life to the area later evolved into farm lands, entertaining resort life, followed by a steel plant to help in time of war, Fullmer noted.
“Vineyard has served us well in time of need,” she said. “Geneva Steel, which provided jobs and gave security to our great valley and communities, is now reflected in the iron cauldrons located at the ‘Yard’ and Vineyard UVU Campus, historic art pieces throughout the community, historical documents, future land-marks, architectural design, and the memory of those that lived at that time. It’s very exciting to be part of such a restorative project to rejuvenate the environment and region.”
With the steel mill in the past, Vineyard now has an opportunity to join with Orem and Provo on one of the largest lake shore clean up and design projects presented.
These efforts, including a $3 million grant, will lead to the new Walkara Way conservation area and nature preservation park.
“This funding will allow Vineyard to clean up invasive species, restore the shore front, build up the trails, design and build a boardwalk that connects to the promenade that is planned through the city center to the Vineyard FrontRunner station opening in 2021,” Fullmer said.
The shoreline in Vineyard is public, and the funds will restore the area into a safe, exquisite area for people of all ages in Vineyard and through the region to enjoy. Additionally, it will invite back native species and migrating birds, and parts will become a conservation area that is very restorative to the lake, Fullmer added.