Though Lehi is in the early stages of its downtown renovation plan, similar to a south-county sister city, Spanish Fork, officials say they hope the facade improvements for some of the downtown buildings will ring in the old, not the new.
The City Council tentatively approved a contract with a Salt Lake architectural firm to formulate an improvement plan for Lehi's downtown areas earlier this month, including the recently abandoned Memorial Building, 51 N. Center.Mayor Guy Cash said that unlike Spanish Fork, which completed its $160,000 Main Street beautification project last year, the city doesn't plan to modernize its downtown area. In fact, Cash said he and members of the council hope the area will resemble "a turn-of-the century community."
Cash said the city, the sixth in the original Utah Territory, "has a long history, especially as far as the state is concerned. We've got a lot of turn-of-the-century buildings along our State Street area, and they all need some upgrading."
Also, the city is scheduled to get a full I-15 interchange on the east side of its Main Street in fiscal 1992, which Cash said could encourage tourists to visit the State Street area.
"The interchange will open and expose Lehi to the type of tourism we have not had in the past. However, what do we have to offer them to hold them in the area? If we can effect restoration, we could really attract tourism."
Allen Roberts of Cooper/Roberts Architects - a firm that has handled similar projects in Provo and Park City, among others, and specializes in historical preservation and restoration - said both residents and city officials indicated to his firm in public meetings held earlier this year that they would like improvements to reflect the city's pioneer heritage.
"Tourism is a big industry in cities through which there is a lot of travel," Roberts said. "And in surveys we've seen, the two biggest reasons that areas attract tourism is because of either their natural wonders, like parks, or their historical sites."
Roberts said Lehi has "a good stock of historical buildings upon which they can build their downtown area. There will have to be some modern amenities, such as parking and lighting, but that still allows us to emphasize the city's historical architecture."
First on the drawing board for Roberts is sketching possible upgrades in the facade of the old Memorial Building. The council has set aside $50,000 for improvements to the building.
Cash and the rest of the council clashed earlier this year on possible funding to completely renovate the building, which once housed the city's Carnegie Library and could have been the city's new administration building. A Cooper/Roberts study indicated that restoration would cost $315,000, but the council approved the construction of a new $419,000 administration building, due to be completed this November.
"Our current plans (for the Memorial Building) call for renovating the building's exterior, including the roof and stucco walls. Then we'll start sketching possible improvements for the rest of downtown (which includes three blocks in the Main Street-Center Street area)."
Cash said he and others are excited about the project and have received many positive responses to the plan. "It's my feeling that we should magnify what we have rather than to create something new."
Spanish Fork officials say increasing the influx of business was not the deciding factor in making downtown improvements. But the improvements certainly haven't hindered the city's cause, they say.
"We didn't plan on the improvements bringing in new business to Spanish Fork. We just wanted to be proud of our new Main Street," City Engineer Richard Heap said.
Also, Spanish Fork is proud of the effects of the project, including positive comments from other Utah County leaders. "Quite a few of them have commented on how they were impressed by the beauty of it all," Mayor Marie Huff said.
After visiting Spanish Fork's Main Street area, however, Cash said he felt city officials there had created what was appropriate for their city, but not for his.
"I think our best potential is for us to emphasize our turn-of-the-century buildings and community. Frankly, I'm very excited about this."
However, like its sister city, which has had six new businesses move into its downtown area since its beautification project, Cash said he hopes the renovation will make citizens proud of their city, and if new businesses decided to settle in the city because of the project, then so much the better.