Richard Brunst, Mayor, Orem, UT
His announcement for re-election in 2017, held at a new restaurant in the community as well as attended by Utah’s governor for this Utah city of 100,000 garnered enthusiastic applause, but even Orem Mayor Richard Brunst will tell you he doesn’t begrudge the almost standing ovation given by the attendees when it was announced at the event Trader Joe’s was coming to locate in the city. The 13,000 square foot Trader Joe’s has given bragging rights to the city as the redevelopment and retail growth capital of the United States, Mayor Brunst said with pride during a recent interview with Candidates.vote’s Clark H. Caras.
Candidates.vote– Landing Trader Joe’s is somewhat of a major coup for Orem Mayor Brunst considering your neighbor Provo (Home to Brigham Young University.) had been vying for it as well.
Mayor Brunst– Trader Joe’s came to the mall (A $500 redevelopment in the city.) because they knew that’s where the action in Utah County is. Many will tell you retail is dying because of online sales; but Orem City’s retail sales tax is up 40-percent in the past six years.
Candidates.vote– Orem’s University Mall’s redevelopment and transition to University Place with its mixed use expansion has made your community the central gathering place for the 660,000 in Utah County and the students at the two universities here.
Mayor Brunst– When it comes to redevelopment, mixed use and retail growth Orem is the poster child of redevelopment. Along with the mall and its stores and restaurants; there are 1,000 apartments that are 98-percent filled, a Courtyard Hotel, two new parking garages going up, and a new business building. And it’s no secret we’d love to make things work and bring the Hale Center Theater to University Place.
What you have in this four to seven year buildout in the redevelopment of University Place is a $500 million expansion of the mall, but a billion and one-half ripple effect taking place.
Candidates.vote– It’s interesting all of this redevelopment as well as some things going on with mass transit in Orem has come right at the time of the city’s centennial celebration. That has to add a bit to excitement of the rapid growth taking place in the community?
Mayor Brunst– We actually had the kick-off celebration on May 4that the mall. Instead of birthday cake we had 2,000 cupcakes, games, fireworks and David Osmond sang a song about Orem’s centennial written by Alan Osmond.
The 100 years is exciting but it’s even more when you consider some things about the community’s growth. From 1950 to 2000 Orem grew by 10-percent. Since 2000 until present day, Orem City has grown by 16-percent.
Candidates.vote– There was a time when Orem’s bragging rights were having, “the longest main street”, in the United States; as well as some of the finest orchards in the state.
Mayor Brunst– Over the years it seemed we’ve taken what Provo doesn’t want. Just a lot of sagebrush and rattlesnakes no one wanted. And yes, the orchards and at one time the largest strawberry patch in the nation. And then we had the freeway, The Mall, and Utah Valley University.
Candidates.vote– It’s my understanding Orem and Provo are home to one of the most successful dedicated lane mass transit systems in the county. Do you mind explaining what has happened in your community and just how the dedicated bus lane system works.
Mayor Brunst– You’re talking about the Utah Valley Express that runs from the Front Runner (Train mass transit connecting Utah and Salt Lake valleys.) It consists of transit buses moving through the cities in a dedicated lane – a lot like Salt Lake’s TRAX system, only its buses.
It’s been such a success, but we had to deal with two referendums and two lawsuits against it. And now it’s moving 10,000 people a day; compared to 1,500 before that on a bus system. And it means there are 10,000 less cars on the Parkway between Orem and Provo. The numbers show an extra 2,000 people a day coming out of Salt Lake City to Orem on Front Runner, which means you have 2,000 less cars traveling the freeway south.
Utah Valley University sold 850 less parking passes this year. Opening up 1,000 extra spaces at the school. And to think about the fact this program was labeled as “dead” three different times.
Candidates.vote– I’m told you helped put together a coalition of mayors and worked to convince the county commission to vote in favor of supporting the system?
Mayor Brunst– My philosophy about things is the time to put that in is before you need it. We got Senator Hatch to get it back into the 2016 budget and today we are seeing the success of it happening. Utah County was one of only six counties that year out of 120 to secure small start monies.
Candidates.vote– Generally the first question asked in our visit is this… are you a hamburger or cheeseburger kind of person?
Mayor Brunst– Cheeseburger. I love the taste the cheese adds to the burger.
Candidates.vote– Pickles or no pickles?
Mayor Brunst– No pickles. I just like the simple, honest taste of things.
Candidates.vote– Sounds a bit like how you handle things politically as well? Simple and honest?
Mayor Brunst– I guess you might say that. I love my community and over the past several years have been there for every request that comes to my office. You can find my phone number on line and on anything published. If my phone rings at 10:30 p.m. I’ll answer it.