Downtown Provo has changed a lot over the past several year.

Downtown Provo has come a long way in the last decade or so, now filled with popular restaurants, businesses and retail.

It wasn’t that long ago that Sensuous Sandwich was the only food establishment on the south side of Center Street, said Provo deputy mayor Dixon Holmes. Now there’s a whole list of eateries on that side of the road. Those include the cafe at the new Nu Skin building, Sensuous Sandwich, Joe Vera’s, China Garden, Broke Eatery and Oregano — a success story on its own. That restaurant started out with a different name in the old TGI Friday’s space on north Freedom Boulevard, moved to a location on University Avenue, and then to its current spot on west Center Street.

“There really has been a lot of change in uses of downtown,” Holmes said.

And historic buildings now mix with new development. Those include Liberty Center, a mixed-income community of 120 apartments on west Center Street. There’s also 63 Center on east Center Street, with apartments and retail space.

Holmes told the Provo council on Tuesday that the city’s economic development department works to promote downtown and let people know that it’s the “up-and-coming place to be.”

“(Unhinged) opened up a second location and now they do better than the Sugarhouse store. It’s doing well and it adds to the vibrancy and variety in downtown.” — Dixon Holmes, Provo deputy mayor

Case in point — several years ago, city staff noticed a boutique in Sugarhouse that was doing really well. Holmes said they don’t poach businesses from other cities. But they approached the owner about opening a second location of Unhinged in downtown Provo.

“They opened up a second location and now they do better than the Sugarhouse store,” he said. “It’s doing well and it adds to the vibrancy and variety in downtown.”

A new karaoke place has opened at 52 W. Center Street, said Chad Thomas, business development coordinator for Provo. Lotus Garden used to occupy the space; that restaurant still uses the other half of the building.

But downtown has properties that owners need to clean up, Holmes said.

Last year the city got a Brownfields Program grant from the Environmental Protection Agency — $200,000 for hazardous substances and $200,000 for petroleum. So far, the city has used grant money to assess the old Bradshaw Auto property behind Foxglove at 466 W. Center St. and property once occupied by a dry cleaner at about 50 S. Freedom Blvd., he said. The city would like to combine the auto property with the vacant land once occupied by the Roasted Artichoke building.

And there are stores and restaurants that don’t last downtown. Fat Daddy’s Pizza recently closed as well as Gloria’s Little Italy. Thomas said city staff is in conversations with the broker on that space, so they stay in the loop.

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