Affordable housing to reach a new level at 255 S. State Street in Downtown Salt Lake City

The partially built eyesore of steel girders and graffiti at 255 S. State in the heart of Downtown Salt Lake City – currently an excavated hole capped in concrete – may soon be resolved.

Senior representatives from Chicago-based Brinshore Development, one of the largest affordable housing developers in the country, according to Principal David Brint, briefed the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Board this week.

255 S. State site from the east. Edison Street below. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Brinshore’s mixed affordable and market-rate project aims to align with the goals of a 2018 RFQ from the RDA. Among those goals are providing a significant number of “deeply affordable” units, promoting an active streetscape, establishing a public mid-block walkway, and preserving and activating the historic Cramer House on Floral Street.

The Cramer House on Floral Street, planned for a restaurant on the ground floor and a living space above. Photo by Luke Garrott.

The site is the former home of a previous generation of single-room occupancy unit (SROs) buildings in the city, the Regis and the Cambridge. Purchased by the RDA in the early 2000s and demolished in 2012, they were labeled as the city’s “seediest tenements.”

The RDA made a commitment at the time of demolition to replace the 150 units of affordable housing lost.

The new project is currently in the last stages of conceptual design. The RDA Board on Tuesday expressed approval of the plans and emphasized that some of the open space in the project should accommodate amenities for children.

The project is notable in part for including 13 three- and four-bedroom apartments in its mix.

Overhead conceptual drawing of 255 S. State. Courtesy SLC RDA public documents.

Project outline

Instead of proposing a single building of large scale, Brinshore’s architect, KTGY, has designed two structures. The south building will be eight floors containing 73 units and the north structure will rise to 13 stories with 117 units. 152 of the 190 total units will be affordable, ranging from 20%-80% of AMI, with 38 units at market rate. The mix will be 122 one-bedroom, 52 two-bedroom, 13 three- and four-bedroom, with three at-grade artist live-work spaces.

On street level, the project will offer 23,000 sq. ft. of commercial space (down from 40,000 in previous plans), some of which will be dedicated to community and education purposes. The developer plans to build one level of below-grade parking, offering 100 stalls. Eighteen surface parking spaces will be reserved for retail clients.

Rendering of the paseo, seen from Floral Street west towards State. Image courtesy SLC RDA public documents.

Between the buildings will be a public “paseo.” It will run from Floral Street (an alley at about 125 East that’s accessible only from 200 South) to State Street and align with Gallivan Avenue on the west side of State.

Pedestrians will be able to pass all the way from Edison Street (145 East) to State thanks to an existing east-west alley and the paseo.

Edison Street looking South. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Project financing

Brinshore says that a “large portion of the financing is in place at this point.” For the $70 million project, the developers are assembling over $22 million in low-income tax credits and $27 million in tax-exempt bonds.

In addition, Brinshore is asking the RDA for nearly $13 million in loans: $5 million for property acquisition, $2 million from the affordable housing Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), and $5.9 million in an additional request the RDA Board is eager to see in the next month. The length of the loans would be 30 years.

Brinshore’s financing model would require quick action. The federal tax credits they’ve already secured require that residents start moving in by December 2021, and the developers note “we’re already a little behind schedule now.”

The same was the case for the previous developer. The State Street Plaza project of Ben Logue’s Tannach Properties crashed in a heap of complex financing, dubious engineering, and broken promises.

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.