As the old adage goes, “Build it and they will come,” and Weber State University did just that. After two and a half years, the collaborative project known as Weber State Downtown was finally completed and celebrated Thursday morning.
Alan Hall, chair of the WSU Board of Trustees, joined vice provost Alex Lawrence, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell and WSU President Charles Wight on the stage for the ribbon cutting.
“Today is a purple-letter day for the city and university,” exclaimed Hall to applause from the crowd. “This is a remarkable event where we have the university, and the city and community leaders coming together to accomplish what we think is a very cooperative activity.”
Hall said the Weber State Downtown center will represent the future of economic growth through new start-ups and technology innovation. “This will be the center of the universe as far as we’re concerned.”
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, people crowded the only available standing room in the space designated for a campus store and cafe, scheduled to open in January. After the formal segment of the reception, all three floors of the newly renovated 18,000-square-foot building were full of community members and WSU affiliates.
Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell said the project was an example of the College Town Initiative.
“This is an honorable day for downtown Ogden and Weber State University, and I am honored to be a part of this and I can’t thank you all enough for being here and for what this is going to do for our community in the future.”
Weber State Downtown is designed to change the face of small business in Ogden through these technology innovations and also through the Ogden-Weber partnership. The new building is home to Web and mobile development classes offered through Continuing Education, and a campus bookstore that features a coffee shop and Apple products store. Students as well as community members can purchase parking passes and game tickets or pay tuition at the downtown location.
The third floor of the building also serves as a home for Startup Ogden, a mobile app development center. For a monthly fee, the public can have access to a workspace, showers and lockers, fiber Internet and food amenities, as well as networking opportunities with industry professionals.
“The real thank-you will be what comes out of this building and what we spin out of here for the decades to come in the future,” Caldwell said. “This is a phenomenal thing.”
Hall also said Lawrence was instrumental in completing the Weber State Downtown project. Lawrence, the vice provost of Innovation and Economic Development at WSU, said projects like Weber State Downtown are unique.
“Universities don’t do stuff like this; this is not in the box,” said Lawrence, noting that Weber State Downtown was innovative in a different way from how universities typically do things.
Lawrence said that, due to supporters such as WSU, Ogden City, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Administration, Weber State Downtown was built debt-free and will be self-sufficient as long as students and community members shop at the campus store and buy Startup Ogden memberships.
According to Lawrence, half of the available memberships were sold before the ribbon-cutting event.
“. . . We will never need money from anyone else again to keep this place open — no tax money, no university money, no ongoing funds. It is completely community-supported.”
Wight said the mayor and Ogden City Council have gone the extra mile to support WSU in partnerships beyond Weber State Downtown. He went on to speak about WSU’s downtown beginnings.
“Weber Stake Academy was founded only about two blocks from here,” he said. “So this place really holds a lot of meaning for the history of Weber State University. It’s great to be back downtown again.”