Ogden and the Storage Wars

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From Urban3’s analysis, city planning officials learned that, when it comes to new development, they cannot just confirm zoning and land use standards. They should be calculating the future financial productivity for the development in the specific place it is being proposed and making sure that the return on investment makes sense for the city. When a new business wants to build in downtown Ogden, the planning department will be asking themselves: “Is this the most fiscally productive way to use our finite land resources?”

Ogden is not the only city in the United States that has decided to amend its zoning laws around storage facilities. Denver, Birmingham, and Miami have all recently outlawed such facilities in their commercial districts, a step that will hopefully lead to better walkable environments and more productive land uses for their cities. 

What has happened in Ogden is far from the worst-case scenario for storage facilities. Strong Towns is not necessarily anti-storage facilities. However, as a general rule, it’s a bad idea to build storage facilities downtown. They don’t contribute anything to the activity or life of downtown, and they are hard to repurpose over time as a community changes. If there’s truly a need for storage spaces, build mixed-use storage facilities, where the first floor can be an active use, such as a restaurant or a store. Your downtown area will be much better off with human-oriented, human-scale buildings populating the main streets than dimly lit rows of garages filled with stuff.

Storage facilities can be implemented thoughtfully in a downtown setting. Large cities like New York have no choice but to implement creative storage solutions, especially with it becoming increasingly unaffordable to have a home with enough space to store keepsakes. But these are an exception, and shouldn’t be the rule.  

For a city like Ogden, Utah, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the walkability and activity of downtown for something that can simply be built a few miles away in a manufacturing zone. There is no denying storage facilities can prove useful in some places, and there’s certainly a market for some amount of storage space, but the U.S. is not living through a storage facility shortage, so cities can afford to be a little more critical about where they’re built and how they relate to the greater community.

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