Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Architecture of Provo’s Crazy Modern Temple

After telling people that I like the architecture of Provo’s original LDS Temple, I typically draw quizzical looks. It’s an unusual building, and often an unloved building.

BYU will host a lecture discussing the architecture of this building on Monday, April 2 at 2 pm. (Apologies for the low quality cell phone picture and the tilted horizon.)

But Monday, residents will get a chance to learn a little bit more about this unique and rare example of Mormon modernism. At 2 p.m., BYU’s HBLL Library will host a Founders Day Lecture titled “Temple Architecture for a Modern Age: The 40th Anniversary of the Provo Temple.” The lecture will take place in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Classroom.

Here is the information provided on the flyer for the event:

When the Ogden and Provo Temples were dedicated in 1972 they were unlike any temples that had preceded them. The two temples introduced a new way of doing temple work and a new concept in how a temple might look. Over time their design has proved to be controversial, but after 40 years it is possible to look back and better understand the historical significance and architectural value of these buildings. As [it] is the lone survivor of the “twin” temples, the Provo Temple stands today as a unique and beloved landmark in Utah Valley.

I truly hope the Provo Temple is preserved over the next few years, and not stripped down and made to look like a suburban cookie-cutter temple, as is happening in Ogden. The Provo Temple is certainly not the most attractive Mormon building in the world — nor is it the least attractive — but it is one of the most unique and represents an important moment in the history of the church and the city. As Provo grows up, this building also is something that gives flavor to the region and that can be appreciated by its increasingly diverse populace.

Click here to see the flyer for this event

The lecture will be held in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections classroom in BYU's library.

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Filed under building, BYU, Development

What Can We Do With Our Malls If (When) They Fail?

Several posts ago, I wondered aloud why there wasn’t a more critical discussion surrounding City Creek. The questions raised in that post, however, were promoted by a general sense that malls are bad investments and on the wane. From a piece on a mall in New Jersey from The Daily Beast:

The scale and scope of the project would be breathtaking in its own right. But what makes Xanadu extraordinary is the fact that it is emerging just as the American mall—that most quintessential of American institutions—is in its dying throes, if not already dead. Moribund malls have not gone unnoticed amongst industry analysts and Web sites like that feature photos of hundreds of now-abandoned sites. But what were once just worrying signs appear to have finally flat-lined.

That’s a description that could certainly apply to City Creek.

But more importantly on the hyper-local level, what does it mean for the malls in Utah County? I’ve written before that I believe Provo’s Towne Center Mall is better poised to succeed long-term than Orem’s University Mall. I’m more and more convinced of that fact all the time — not because I like Provo’s mall better but rather because Provo seems better managed and Orem seems to be a victim of circumstance.

But long term, will either mall survive? I truly can’t imagine how. Neither mall is particularly successful. Neither is in a particularly good location. And the investment going into both cities, and especially Provo, is directed to other areas.

I have no idea what will happen in the future to the malls in Utah County, but it’d be wise to start thinking about what will replace them in a generation or less.

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Filed under economics, Provo

Older People Also Aren’t Driving

Waning desire for cars and car-travel among Millennials has been the big story lately in the news and was the topic of a recent post on this blog.

But a similar phenomenon is also occurring among the aging Baby Boomers, though for different reasons. This AP article reports on the growing concern among experts that as Baby Boomers get older, fewer and fewer will be able to get around. Basically, a massive generation of Americans are going to be too old to drive. Yet at the same time, many of them live in cities that will essentially trap them.

Transportation usually tops the list of unmet needs in local aging-agency surveys, advocates say. Public transit routes and stops sometimes aren’t flexible enough; volunteer transportation networks are popping up in a few places but remain rare.

“How do we keep people involved in the community once they stop driving?” said Cindy Farson, executive director of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. “It’s one of those bottomless pits of need and demand. It’s going to take a lot of creative thinking.”

As Baby Boomers age they'll need more walkable communities that require less driving. Coincidentally, that's also the same thing younger people want.

Like many communities, Provo is likely ill-equipped to serve its aging Baby Boomers. That means either their quality of life will significantly decrease as they drive less, or they’ll simply move to senior communities. Either way, that’s a loss for the city.

The solutions to this problem are neither mysterious nor unattainable. What’s more, they also appeal to both the old and the young alike.

Although the task looms large, communities that address these issues now could reap benefits that reach beyond the Boomer bubble. Creative planners like to envision neighborhoods that appeal to those who are young and old.

Young people actually have similar tastes to seniors when looking for a place to live, coveting walkable communities with easy access to shopping, entertainment and transit. And Boomers want affordable and accessible housing, transportation, recreation options and, when the time comes, in-home care and services to help them avoid nursing homes.

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Filed under commuting, driving

Provo Among 20 Nation-Leading Cities

New rankings from the Brookings Institute have Provo among the 20 cities leading the U.S. out of the recession. In January, a similar report listed Provo among the best cities for economic recovery, but these new rankings include data through the end of 2011.

For example, Provo now has the third best, or lowest, unemployment rate in the entire country. It’s the fourth best place in the U.S. for jobs, and it climbed to 36th best gross metropolitan product (GMP) from 49th (out of 100).

What does all this mean? For starters, Provo’s economy apparently is charging ahead at a faster clip that elsewhere in America. This Atlantic Cities article also compares the 100 biggest metro areas’ statuses in 2009 and in 2011. In 2009, Provo was a lower-tier city, but in 2011 it was one of the strongest. That’s a remarkable change in a very short amount of time, and one that many people may not have stopped to consider; I think most of us can remember what we were doing just three years ago, but in just the blink of an eye Provo has become a relative dynamo.

The article also notes that Provo was one of the three fast growing cities during a similar time period:

The three fastest growing cities by population between 2007 and 2010 were Austin and Raleigh and Provo, Utah (home to Brigham Young University): high-productivity knowledge bases with lower cost of living than, say, New York or Los Angeles, and large research universities. That’s good news for fans of the creative class.*

That the Provo metro area is being grouped with Austin and Raleigh and being called a “high-productivity knowledge base” is quite remarkable considering it’s smaller size and relative historical obscurity. Those other two cities are also state capitals, so Provo is managing to compete despite a relative disadvantage in government jobs and spending.

*It’s curious that the author threw in that parenthetical note about Provo in that quote. Provo frequently shows up in these rankings but the fact that it needed additional  explanation suggests that it may be overlooked, misunderstood or underrepresented.

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Filed under BYU, Development, economics

The Picnic

This is kind of late in the evening, but I just wanted to mention the picnic tonight. First, I wanted to thanks Susan Krueger-Barber for the wonderful flyer she made, and for all her other efforts. Also, I wanted to thank everyone else who came and participated. It was a great time with old and new friends. And that’s one of the things that makes Provo so great: an amazing community, great spaces, and a cool spring evening for them to converge in.

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Filed under community, Development

Young People Want ‘Cool’ Cities

AdWeek recently reported on what most people probably already suspected: young people want to move somewhere “cool.”

What’s significant about that fact, however, is that the recession has apparently driven young people to seek cool cities.

Its analysis of the American Community Survey from 2008-2010 found that young adults, to the extent that they are moving at all, are headed to metro areas which are known to have a certain vibe—college towns, high-tech centers, and so-called “cool cities.”

Young, educated workers are frequently described as one of the most integral parts of a successful city’s economy. They propel growth, innovation and entrepreneurialism. But this new information shows that a city’s vibe, something I’ve also referred to as “mystique,” also matters.

And that’s why things like the arts, walkability, and programs like “Audio-Files” are so important. Though these characteristics may not result in jobs for most young workers, they nevertheless help a city distinguish itself as “cool.”

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Filed under arts, Development, economics

Provo’s Music Scene Grows With ‘Audio-Files’

This blog has mentioned Provo’s surprisingly strong music scene a number of times. That scene has been strong for years, but it’s about to take a significant leap forward with the arrival of “Audio-Files.”

“Audio-Files” is a new show that apparently will air on BYUTV, and perhaps online as well. I believe it is produced by the same people who did the Occidental Saloon videos, which were genuinely amazing. It will also feature native Utah musicians such as Joshua James, those with a strong connection to the area such as Imagine Dragons, and perhaps others.

Additional information online is somewhat scarce at this point, but tonight the show is having a special screening at BYU. Attendees are required to register to get in and the screening is labeled as a “BYU Student Screening.” However, I’m not a BYU student and I just registered, so it appears that anyone with the will to attend can manage to do so.

There are screenings at 6 pm and 8 pm, but I recommend attending the 8 pm screening so you can also go to the community picnic at the tabernacle.

And finally, the development of this program provides a case study in how the arts — and specifically Provo’s music scene — can grow from something small to a major asset in the community. Not only is local music a pleasure, but a show like “Audio-Files” shows that it’s growing to become a major cultural and economic force beyond the limits of its historical niche audience. This is the sort of thing that generates positive buzz, as well as economic development.

I happen to love Provo music simply because I think it’s great, but for all the reasons mentioned above I hope the community supports this program and the cultural movement that produced it.

Visit the “Audio-Files” Youtube channel by clicking here.

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Filed under arts, BYU

Picnic at the Provo Tabernacle on Thursday

In an effort to save the historic ruins and foundation of the original Provo Tabernacle, a group of citizens are organizing a community picnic (Disclosure: I am one of those citizens). It will take place Thursday from 5:30-8 pm on the lawn at the corner of Center Street and University Ave. I’d highly recommend coming and checking out this historical site, as the pictures don’t really do it justice.

The purposes of the picnic are really two-fold. First, to give as many people as possible the chance to see the old foundation. There are plans to cart it away very soon, so this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And second, to help the people in charge of this project — including city and LDS Church leaders — understand that it is meaningful and important to the community. So the more people who attend the better.

Also, if you’d like to read more about the current efforts to preserve the historic site, Genelle Pugmire wrote this article today.

And finally, if you’d like to read more about the justifications for saving this site, you can read this post that I wrote earlier this month.


Filed under Development, Downtown, Provo, Provo Tabernacle

Lessons for Downtown From Stadiums in Other States

The Atlantic Cities recently reported on how a “mega-structure” affects a downtown. The article specifically contrasts Denver’s successful Coors Field with Phoenix’s less successful Chase Field.

But while the lessons are derived from two stadiums, they’re instructive for other types of buildings and “mega-structures” as well. For example, author Eric Jaffe quotes the researchers as saying

A key consideration that is often overlooked in the planning phase of these projects is the historical urban growth patterns and resulting urban form of the cities in which stadium development projects are proposed.

In other words, the same kinds of developments don’t function the same way in every city.

The article also tackles the issue of collateral development and sprawl. Denver’s Coors field succeed, apparently, because people lived nearer by and stuck around after games for surrounding attractions. By contrast, people in Phoenix lived further away and consequently left the stadium without spending much time — or money — in the city.

If you read this blog very often, you probably already know where I’m going with this: the Tabernacle Temple and to a lesser extent the Utah Valley Convention Center.

Neither of those new buildings are really “mega-structures,” but much like a stadium, they’ll be attracting people from both downtown and the surrounding communities. I’ve also expressed concern that these projects, especially the temple, won’t actually have the kinds of benefits that the city hopes because they won’t direct people into the surrounding streets.

If Provo wants these new developments to impact downtown the way Coors Field impacted Denver, it needs to seriously consider how they’ll interact with the surrounding areas. It’s also worth remembering that many educated and knowledgeable people thought Phoenix’s stadium would bolster that city, but those hopes were ultimately thwarted.

Will the upcoming in development in downtown Provo function more like Denver's baseball stadium, or the one in Phoenix?


Filed under Development, Downtown, Provo Tabernacle

Please Sign This Petition to Save the Tabernacle Ruins

After visiting the historic tabernacle ruins last night, my friend and neighbor Susan Krueger-Barber organized this petition to lobby for the preservation of the site.

The idea is to deliever this petition to the Provo city leadership as well as the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s no secret that I feel strongly about this issue. In my opinion, preserving the site will have an array of economic, cultural, and spiritual benefits, some of which I discuss in this post. So again, please sign this petition, share it with your friends, and spread the word. It’s up to the people in Provo to determine the shape of the city.

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Filed under community, Development, Downtown, Mormon, Provo Tabernacle