What City Is the Future of Utah County?

Yesterday, my former colleague Genelle Pugmire reported on a new project in Vineyard that’s beginning to break ground. From the article, it looks like it’ll be a commercial project, though from what I understand the ultimate goal is to build a big, sprawling, suburb in the same area.

That’s obviously unfortunate — we don’t need more sprawl, of course — but one thing in particular stood out from Genelle’s article:

Last year [project manager Steward] Park was invited to speak at the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce Summit at Sundance. He said he followed Provo Mayor John Curtis — a relative of Park — who was bragging about growth in his city.

Park quipped, “I said, with all due respect mayor, the future of Utah County is at Geneva.” He added that with what is planned there is no doubt.

In other words, some cities in Utah see growth as a kind of competition and are actively trying to become the region’s center.

I’ve long felt that there is a finite amount of growth and investment money that will pour into Utah County in the coming years. That amount may not be fixed, but it also isn’t endless. What’s telling about this article is that some cities and developers agree with that perspective and are chasing whatever investment they can get.

Provo needs to out compete these sad little suburbs. That means making things like infill, in particular, happen; Provo doesn’t have sites like Geneva Steel that can be redeveloped but it still needs to add a lot of housing to accommodate population growth. Ultimately, Provo is an appealing place that has a lot to offer, but without a lot more diverse and affordable housing the biggest population boom in memory will be diffused across the valley and a tremendous opportunity will be lost.

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