Paul Larsen the Brigham City Community and Economic Director stands next to a 1920’s photograph of downtown on Thursday, Jan. 19 2022. Larsen is heavily involved in restoring Main Street to a place where visitors and locals want to shop.
BRIGHAM CITY – One hundred years ago, Utah main streets were vibrant and vital to their city’s economy and identity. Brigham City’s Main Street was no different and Paul Larsen, the city’s community and economic development director, is going after more grants to upgrade the old buildings downtown to make them look new.
Brigham City Council adopted a resolution to apply to the Utah Main Street Program in October 2021 and wanted a support organization to operate it.
“We have two downtown organizations, the Historic Downtown Brigham City, a 501(c), and the Brigham City Old Town,” Larsen said. “We would like to see both organizations come together and find some common ground. We want some critical mass from the Main Street organizations when looking for resources to move things forward.”
Even in Brigham City, business organizations, elected officials, various state agencies and organizations have looked at their Main Streets and expressed interest in re-establishing them as the center of the community’s activities.
“We have one grant that was approved and one application to the Rural Main Street Revitalization,” Larsen said. “I think 12 properties owners submitted a letter of interest and based on the letter of interest the state will invite those people to apply to the program.”
Rural cities have the most to gain. In a 2018 survey of 102 Utah cities, 70 percent expressed interest in participating in a renewed Main Street program, and nearly 60 percent of those interested were rural communities.
There is a 2 Tier program. Those just getting started are designated Tier 1, those with more experience are Tier 2. Because of the city has already gone through the pilot program last year they were designated as Tier 2.
“As part of our pilot program we had three businesses that did a nice job of restoring their store fronts,” Larsen said. ”Idle Isle Café, 3 goats Gruff and the Union Block building have added to our Main Street.”
The Idle Isle Café, owned by Travis Porter, is located at 24 South Main and has lights surrounding the outside of the building giving the building some early pizazz. The café has been serving meals for over 100 years.
3 Goats Gruff building, located at 14 South Main owned by Ben and LeAnn Jorgensen, found when they pulled off the 1960’s siding most of the original 1910 façade was still there. The store has been selling gently used books and other retail since 1985.
The Union Block building, owned by David and Donna Walker located at 57 South, is the home of Consignology and was restored to its 1892 appearance.
The building owner said a portion of the Union Block building housed the first bar in Brigham City and the Knudson’s family used part of it for a produce business in its early years.
The building was at one time the number four J.C. Penny store in the country.
“We have one grant that was approved and one application to the Downtown Enhancement Grant,” Larsen said. “I think 12 property owners submitted a letter of interest and based on the letter the state will invite those people selected to apply to the program.”
The economic development director said the Tier two opens a lot of opportunities for more grant money. There is one grant application he is currently working on and he anticipates more in the future.
A couple property owners might not be eligible, because the buildings are not on the National Register.
“Unless they get on the register they will not be invited to apply,” he said. “The grants are great. There is a 25 percent match the state would fund 75 percent of the project.”
The money comes through the National Park Service and the state wrote the grants with the intended funding be used for preservation.
Each year Brigham City’s Main Street is moving towards new facades with an oldtown appearance.