The creative community of Ogden, Utah is experiencing a dramatic shift, one that will enliven its downtown core and bring to life the city’s new Nine Rails Creative District. The opening of The Monarch promises to widen Ogden’s cultural footprint by offering an environment where individuals can create, learn and share with their community through amenities such as creative studios, innovative eateries, nonprofit exhibition space, dynamic event space and state of the art makerspace. Formerly the abandoned Ben Lomond parking garage for the Bigelow Hotel, The Monarch seeks to cultivate an environment where our community can connect, inspire and create together. In doing so, this exciting project promises to elevate the arts and culture impact of Ogden’s flourishing high adventure mountain community.

“If Ogden responds the way I think it will, The Monarch could attract creatives from all over the Wasatch to our community,” says project developer Thaine Fischer. Fischer is the visionary behind The Monarch and owner of the building, which he purchased in 2011 through his development company Fischer-Regan Enterprises, LLC. “We envision circulating energy between 25 to 30 creatives, hip restaurant vibes and lively private parties. We want to make a bold statement in our new creative district.” The Nine Rails Creative District was recently established by Ogden City as the area between Wall and Madison Avenues, from 24th to 26th street. The District aims to promote engagement through a variety of art forms, encompassing everything from visual art to architecture. The Monarch will be the creative heart of the Nine Rails, contributing to the city’s goal of providing a dedicated area for arts and culture to thrive.

Monarch in Moda

World-renowned artist Jane Kim of Ink Dwell studio inspired The Monarch’s identity with her mural, Monarch in Moda, completed fall 2018. This public artwork on The Monarch’s Upper Deck is part of Kim’s Migrating Mural project, a series of public artworks that highlight threatened wildlife along migration corridors they share with humans. Monarch in Moda is the sixth Monarch Migrating Mural, with other public works in Arkansas, Florida and California, connecting Ogden to a nationwide public art initiative. It is also one of three Monarch Migrating Murals in Ogden, representing a community effort to promote public art in Northern Utah. Six banners depicting the monarch’s life cycle hang seasonally at the Ogden Nature Center, while another large mural can be found in the Kimball Visual Art Center at Weber State University. Monarch in Moda is part of the O1ARTS WALLS initiative to transform Ogden neighborhoods and public spaces through art.

Building History

While Monarch in Moda provides a clear new identity for the building, the renovation does not seek to erase its past. Fischer-Regan Enterprises is working with Carbon Architects to bring modern design features into the structure’s industrial atmosphere, while preserving and even highlighting historic details such as parking stalls, ramps, garage doors and original windows. The building, formerly the Hotel Bigelow Garage, was built in 1929 and is the last surviving example of an enclosed parking garage from the early depression era. The structure was established by prominent Ogden businessman and entrepreneur H.C. Bigelow and constructed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style by Leslie S. Hodgson, Ogden’s most ubiquitous architect of the time. Hodgson also designed the Bigelow Hotel, Egyptian Theater, the Eccles building, Peery apartment building and Ogden High School.

Fischer-Regan Enterprises

Ogden is on the rise as the city and its partners make dedicated efforts to revitalize yet preserve its architectural and historical significance. Fischer-Regan Enterprises has been a big player in these efforts, particularly in Ogden’s downtown corridor. While The Monarch is his biggest project to date, Fischer has successfully renovated six buildings that now house thriving businesses and restaurants, including Pig and a Jelly Jar and Zucca’s Ristorante. He acquires what he refers to as “birdcages” - dilapidated buildings filled with pigeons and broken windows– and revitalizes them into hip urban spaces. Where most people see failing structures and lost causes, Fischer envisions dance studios, hip restaurants and creative centers. When redeveloping a historical building, he is careful to preserve architectural designs and historic details and has even placed four buildings, including The Monarch, on the National Register of Historic Places. Considering himself a social entrepreneur, Fischer is passionate about uplifting his community by promoting positive social and economic change, one building at a time. “I ask myself what I can do that will create value for businesses that is also beneficial to the community where I live,” he says. “When I say, “redeveloping,” I mean re-activating these buildings while preserving their architectural design, not just tearing them down. We believe there’s something socially valuable about honoring our architectural legacy in Ogden; I feel it impacts our community in a positive way.”

The Monarch is set to open late spring and be fully occupied by the end of 2019, while Ogden City’s makerspace vision will most likely come to fruition the following year. The Monarch’s studios are now available for lease to artists, designers and creative businesses of all types. Fischer is hosting Hard Hat Tours in conjunction with Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll that are open to the public and can be booked through The Monarch’s Facebook page.