Ballpark continues to percolate with housing projects and some discontentment

The cleaners have moved. The bank has moved. The fuel pump is gone. The warehouses are being replaced by hundreds of new apartments.

That single-family home on Major near 1700 South? It’s made way for a micro-unit apartment project. One of the areas notorious no-tell motels on Main Street is slated to make way for a mixed-use project (but faces opposition from some in the neighborhood).

Changes are underway near the center of Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood, with more entering the pipeline all the time. 

While the city has put recent focus on the neighborhood south of Downtown, Ballpark continues to attract attention from developers large and small, most of whom are developing under antiquated zoning codes.

The city chose to focus on potentially rezoning the buildings fronting the major arterial 1300 South, due to that road’s proximity to the stadium and TRAX line.

Developers, meanwhile, continue to focus on the area to the south, along 1700 South, which has fewer car lanes, doesn’t connect to the interstate, but doesn’t have a transit station.

The latest is Same Day Express Dry Cleaners, which quickly closed up shop on the northeast corner of 1700 S. West Temple and moved a few blocks west this year.

That often means the property owner sold to a developer. In this case, the owners are keeping the land and moving to develop it into 17 townhomes on two buildings.

The northeast corner of 1700 S. West Temple is making way for a three-story townhome project. Rendering by JZW Architects.

Five curb cuts will be consolidated into one, with drive aisle access off West Temple just north of the intersection. The south building will be oriented east-west along 1700 South, with a small setback from the sidewalk and either units.

Development in the CB zone allows for buildings up to 30 feet tall, with no required setback in the front yard.

Renderings show trees will be added in a new median along West Temple. (1700 South, which has narrow sidewalks and no parkstrip, will have no tree canopy, according to the renderings.)

Townhomes are a permitted use in the CB zone if no other changes are requested, and the property owner has already filed for building permits to begin work.

Before (left), a developer was planning a fourplex built from shipping containers at 1700 S. Major St. in Ballpark. Now (right), construction is underway with a 20-unit micro apartment project.

Micro units on Major

In the time it has taken developers to add new townhomes on the southeast corner of 1700 S. West Temple and northwest corner of 1700 S. Major, another developer has struggled with a tricky parcel.

Originally planned as a four-unit condo building replacing a long-since-demolished single-family house, Paul Svendsen struggled to secure financing and get his project off the ground.

It is now a micro-apartment project with 20 units, oriented north-south and with parking access off Major Street. It’s a remarkable 200 units per acre apparently allowed by-right on the 0.1-acre parcel, which is zoned Commercial Corridor (CC).

The zone requires 15-foot setbacks, but it falls within the South State Street Overlay District, which allows Svendsen to build up to the narrow sidewalks on the north and west property lines.

There’s been nothing presented to the city in the three years since it first approved the four-unit condo project. Construction on the micro units is well underway. 

Rumblings in the neighborhood

Organizers in Ballpark have been raising noise around the neighborhood’s struggles with crime, lack of open space, lack of civic amenities like public schools and a library, and so on. 

Some of the crime is attributed to the rundown motels in the immediate area, including the Main Street Motel at 1518 S. Main. 

Police just last week had a standoff with a person they believed to be armed, threatening and holed up in one of the motel’s rooms. The SWAT team obtained a warrant, entered the room and found the suspect had fled the scene. (He hasn’t been found.)

A developer is under contract with the motel’s owner, David Pope, to purchase the property, demolish the motel and redevelop the nearly 2 acres of land.

The sale is contingent on Urban Alfandre’s attempt to rezone the property to Form Based Urban Neighborhood (FB-UN2), which has become one of the most popular zoning types among developers of late. 

No plans for the property have been released, only descriptions by Alfandre, a Building Salt Lake supporter, to add a mixed-use housing project into an increasingly urbanizing neighborhood.

“Our intent is to kind of anchor the corner of Main Street motel and that other parcel to the north with retail to activate both corners,” James Alfandre said, “and to activate a neighborhood node and commercial.”

Rather than welcome the potential change of ownership and use, Ballpark organizers are fighting it. 

“As community advocates, of course we want to see the Main Street Motel gone,” the group said. “But asking us to choose between that motel and a 65-foot 2-acre monolith of rental units built up to the sidewalk is a false choice.” 

Just like many urban areas, the neighborhood has more renters than most neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, and Ballpark has moved to oppose rental proposals recently. 

The neighborhood is also among the most underserved by parkspace, and it targeted the same developer when he requested a waiver of setbacks on another project. (The Planning Commission tabled the project after hearing the objections before approving it the following month.) 

Alfandre got another project, called Gabbott’s Row, just south of the Main Street Motel, approved over many of the same opponents in the neighborhood.

The Main Street Motel will be the next test. It’s not yet scheduled for a hearing.

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.