University Place aims to become Orem’s town square

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A children's indoor and outdoor play area is one of the main features of The Orchards.
A children’s indoor and outdoor play area is one of the main features of The Orchard. The project is part of University Place owner Jeff Woodbury’s goal to make the area Orem’s community center. (University Place)

University Place in Orem will celebrate the first step in a project to turn University Place into more than just a retail center beginning Monday.

Approximately five years ago, University Place owner Jeff Woodbury and his team came up with the idea to turn University Place into a community center, complete with office buildings and a residential area, in addition to retail. Woodbury hired several architects and looked at other properties for ideas.

“We’re trying to create a town place,” Woodbury said.

Woodbury, among others, observed that Orem hasn’t really had a downtown area in the past. University Place is redeveloping to become that downtown area. Over a period of several years, Woodbury and his company hope to create 1 million square feet of office space and 2,000 housing units.

Economic division development manager Ryan Clark has been involved with this project almost four years. He said it took a year to create the zoning code for the project, which determines things such as building height, residential density and parking standards.

“(The project) is going to help give Orem a sense of ‘place,'” Clark said.

Clark also said that he will definitely bring his family to the development once it is finished.

A financial study completed in 2014 by the economic development division of Orem measured the effect this project will have on the economy. The study said that this redevelopment will create over 4,000 jobs for people in the local economy.

That could mean more jobs for graduating students and parents of young families in the area, as well as the possibility to work closer to home for people who normally have to commute daily.

More than just stimulating the economy, this project aims to create what Woodbury refers to as a “walkable community.”

“It’s a shame that we have to get in the car every time we want to do something,” Woodbury said.

The Orchards, under construction in this photo, will be open to the public Monday Oct. 3.
The Orchard, under construction in this photo, will open to the public on Monday, Oct. 3. The Orchard is a section of University Place designed primarily for children and families. (University Place)

This downtown area will have everything needed for entertainment and living, including weekly events in “The Orchard” park, according to Woodbury.

University Place manager Rob Kallas has managed the mall for 35 years.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he said. “Now we’re taking on probably the biggest change.”

Kallas said that he is excited for it, along with Woodbury and the rest of the people involved in the project. Kallas also said that he thinks University Place is ahead of the curve in building the type of community people will want in the future.

“I think it keeps Orem modern,” he said.

Kallas said that this development will create a business center for Orem, and that it is something the residents can be proud of.

Orem Mayor Richard Brunst expressed gratitude to the Woodbury family for investing in Orem, and said that this project “lifts all ships” in the community. He especially emphasized the benefit to children.

“It’s making our city a very vibrant and exciting place to be,” Brunst said.

The first part of the “walkable community” that will be available to residents is The Orchard. The Orchard is made up of a green space, indoor and outdoor kids’ play areas, a large fountain and an outdoor stage.

The ribbon cutting for the The Orchard will be Monday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. The ribbon cutting will kick off a series of events starting Monday and going through Saturday. Woodbury said they planned to have something for everyone, from firefighting training for kids and country line dancing, to yoga class and hip-hop dance instruction. Local celebrity Jamesthemormon will end the festivities with a concert on Saturday. A full list of events can be found here.

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