Downtown Provo bustling, the Velour celebrates

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Dozens gather outside in the bitter cold at the Velour Live Music Gallery, hoping to land door tickets for a sold-out show at the downtown Provo venue. (Photo by Casey Adams)

Changes in the downtown landscape are bringing more business to companies as patrons experience a new social culture captured in the historic neighborhood.

Developments such as the Provo Tabernacle Temple site, the Utah Valley Convention Center and the latest Nu Skin campus attract crowds, boosting foot traffic for other local businesses like the Velour Live Music Gallery.

Recently celebrating its seventh anniversary, the Velour is helping to lead a movement to involve the community to meet goals outlined by Provo Mayor John Curtis for the future of the city. The local student population is a large part of the plan.

Live music is hosted every weekend at the Velour; Tuesday is open mic night. Artists can sign up to perform for $2. (Photo by Casey Adams)

“That’s been one of the significant shifts,” Curtis said, “that downtown is becoming a cool place for students.”

Curtis won election in 2010 and said one of the biggest questions people asked him was how to attract more students to the downtown area.

“None of them were coming downtown,” Curtis said. “We want a continual emphasis on making our downtown a fun and vibrant place for students to come and enjoy quality inexpensive evenings, meals and concerts.”

Kaneischa Johnson, Public Relations Director for the Velour, estimates 85 percent of BYU students aren’t even aware of the Velour, and of the probably 10 percent who do know about the venue, only five percent actually attend shows.

“We are so much more than a music venue,” Johnson said. “We’re a community space, and we are invested in our town and in the music scene, which contributes to the downtown culture and downtown economy.”

Mayor Curtis presented the Velour with a plaque of recognition last week for being an outstanding community partner and “for Velour’s positive impact on the vibrancy to our downtown area,” the plaque stated. The award was presented during one of the sold-out shows put on by The Neon Trees.

Crowds pour into the Velour on University Ave. to escape the cold and enjoy a heart-warming live music show. (Photo by Casey Adams)

Johnson says since the announcement of the Provo City Center Temple in 2011, she has noticed a spike in foot traffic in the area. People are beginning to think of downtown as an experience, Johnson said.

“The restaurants down here are drawing people down,” Johnson said. “Then they stroll by Velour. It’s becoming this collection of things.”

The Utah Valley Convention Center that opened last summer, the only convention center in Utah County, hosts hungry visitors looking for entertainment after meetings or events.

Development projects like the convention center and the Nu Skin building expansion are courting Provo down a path of transition from operating as a big town to establishing itself as a big city. The Orem-Provo geographic is already the second largest metropolitan area in the state.

Sustainability has been a major theme in Mayor Curtis’ vision for the future of Provo.

“Over the decades of leadership we’ve built a really strong foundation,” Curtis says. “So as we recruit companies to come in, they’re coming into a city that’s already strong.”

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