Adaptive reuse of University Ward meeting house to offer new residential units with no off-street parking

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In a move that is normal in other cities but rare in ours, developers are readying premium units with no off-street parking for tenants.

The LDS University Ward building, at 160 S. University Avenue, is undergoing a conversion to residential use, just at the foot of Presidents’ Circle, the formal entrance to the University of Utah. 

The church dates from 1924, and was designed by architects Harold Burton and Hyrum Pope, who also designed a number of LDS Temple buildings.

Photos by Isaac Madsen

The former meeting house will offer 16 apartments on two levels, divided into two 1BR/1BA, eight  2BR/2BA, and six 3BR/2BA market-rate rental units. Originally called “The Meetinghouse” in city permit applications, it is currently going by the name “The Burton.”

It is in the University local historic district, which curtails the number of external alterations that can be done to the building. 

The developers, JAB Real Estate Opportunity Partners, based in Chicago, chose to contain all substantial changes to the interior of the building on the same footprint as the original church and gymnasium. 

Photos taken late 2023, courtesy JAB Real Estate Opportunity Partners

The parcel is zoned RMF-45, which resides in the “General Context” of the city’s parking ordinance, and would have required more than one stall per unit (since most of the units are two- and three-bedroom). Since it is an adaptive reuse, the new parking ordinance would have only required replacing the existing number of the stalls on site, developers told us.

However, JAB was able to eliminate off-street parking requirements, perhaps because the parking lot that served the church is on a separate parcel. It is also owned by JAB. 

Given that there is no space on the meeting house lot except what faces the streetfront, Historic Landmarks Commission review would likely have vetoed a lot in the church’s front yard.

JAB’s representative told us that the separate lot, accessible by an alley at 1350 East, may or may not be used to park the Burton. 

Photos by Isaac Madsen

When asked if the project’s lenders might be insisting that parking be included in leases, developers told us that they are not. It will be seen if the project can lease up without dedicated off-street parking.

Promotional leasing materials will be ready in several weeks, as the project is close to completion. Developers are hoping to receive their certificate of occupancy in June. 

In 2019 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts was in position to buy the building, but that sale fell through. 

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.