Post-CPAT Momentum in Spanish Fork, Utah

With help from APA's Community Planning Assistance Teams (CPAT) program, Spanish Fork City's Historic Downtown is being rediscovered.

Located about an hour south of Salt Lake City, Utah, Spanish Fork held a CPAT in June 2015, focusing on ways to revitalize its Historic Downtown and Main Street. In the two years since the project ended, the city continues to make incredible progress, bringing the team's original recommendations to life and increasingly visible throughout downtown.

In the last year alone, new businesses opened, more events were held, and an important public space was revamped — all along Main Street. Additionally, discussions with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) about the future of Main Street are moving forward. This is all a direct result of the CPAT.

Newly revitalized public spaces downtown help drive events like the successful farmers market on Main Street. Photo courtesy RK Creative Studio.

One of the more visible improvements on Main Street is the redevelopment of Memorial Square, a small but prominently located public park. Memorial Square was originally constructed in the 1980s to provide a place for families to recognize their deceased loved ones. However, the site lacked shade, lacked seating and generally was not an inviting place to visit.

In order to make the space more hospitable, concrete was replaced by grass, trees were planted, tables and benches were installed and a dilapidated fountain was replaced by raised planter boxes.

The downtown lights parade attracted thousands downtown even with the temperatures well below freezing. Photo courtesy Spanish Fork Community Development Department.

The week before Memorial Day, Memorial Square's redevelopment was celebrated when the public was invited to tour the redeveloped park. The impact of these improvements were immediately felt as people started visiting the square.

Not only have people started to visit the space spontaneously, but the reconfigured space also hosted the Downtown on Main Street Fair, a series of craft fairs held on Saturdays throughout the summer.

Memorial Square in 2015. Photo courtesy Spanish Fork Community Development Department.

The revitalized Memorial Square in 2017 (bottom). Photo courtesy Spanish Fork Community Development Department.

The CPAT's work left the community understanding how important cooperation will be in achieving the goals for downtown. This understanding became evident as several property owners collaborated to initiate a proposal to follow one of the team's more straightforward goals: "improve parking conditions."

This proposal involved the property owners pooling their properties together to allow existing parking to be redesigned and enhanced. This proposal permits the area to be utilized in a much more efficient way and will result in a 30 percent increase in the number of parking spaces that will be available to the public.

Upon hearing the concept, the city quickly agreed to maintain the spaces and it's hoped that this project will serve as a model for other downtown sites.

Poster for Street Fair on Main in Spanish Fork, Utah.

The development of a merchant's alliance is another recommendation of the CPAT. Having key stakeholders involved is a crucial aspect of furthering the effort and the community has been very fortunate to see a group of leaders rise to the occasion. For decades, businesses have expected Spanish Fork City to solve a variety of problems associated with the downtown area.

While the city's involvement is important, the CPAT helped other stakeholders understand the importance of their participation and left them feeling empowered. The merchants quickly formed their own business alliance, Downtown (DT) on Main. The influence and capacity of this group was then enhanced when they made an official connection with the area chamber of commerce.

In 2017, this group played an active role in land use decisions and in promoting downtown. More than 20 downtown events were held under the supervision of DT on Main. The group continues to assume more and more ownership of the effort and the "can do" optimistic spirit bodes well for the future.

Spanish Fork's annual downtown flower planting event enjoyed record participation in 2017. Photo courtesy Spanish Fork Community Development Department.

Looking forward, the city and DT on Main are both excited to start the process to accomplish one of the more significant CPAT goals: redesign and construct a safer Main Street. Main Street not only serves as the main access to downtown but also serves as a thoroughfare with regional significance. UDOT is responsible for the roadway and manages all aspects of what does or does not happen within the Main Street right-of-way.

The recommendations made by the CPAT played an important role in persuading UDOT to participate in a visioning project to reevaluate what the future right-of-way for Main Street will look like downtown. It is expected that this project will be finished in 2018 while steady progress will be made on other goals as well.

Top image: Spanish Fork is getting the whole community involved in revitalizing downtown. A couple of kids served as the friendly faces of a baked goods stand during a recent public event on Main Street. Photo by Jessie Gedeborg.

About the Author
Dave Anderson, AICP, is Spanish Fork's community and economic development director.

October 24, 2017

By Dave Anderson, AICP