Coachman’s project isn’t moving. Is it falling through?

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There may be more surprises in store at Coachman’s, after all.

It’s been over two years since the owner of the famed diner began the process of turning his family’s property into a condo project at 1301 S. State. 

After Mike Nikols successfully rezoned his property, the only apparent and publicly visible change is a chain link fence that surrounds the now vacant buildings on the site.

Behind the scenes, too, there are little signs of progress. In fact, there are signs that Nikols will struggle to pull off what was sure to be an unlikely feat of building a multifamily project with 93 for-sale units in a market where financing is difficult for even the most experienced developers, and virtually no one is building condos.

Nikols is on the agenda for the Salt Lake City Planning Commission meeting on May 10, to ask for a time extension for his project.

That’s typically a common move for when financing for a project falls through or hasn’t been finalized in the nearly one year since it won approval. The extension would buy him another year before he’d have to make a move.

That happened with the hotel that’s being built in the Depot building near the Gateway, when developers who are now underway with construction needed an extra year to shore up financing.

Rendering showing the plans for condos above retail at 1301 S. State, by AE Urbia.

Nikols himself recently indicated to us that his plans weren’t ready for groundbreaking despite saying otherwise.

In an email on March 2, Nikols said he was still finishing financing, and that he hoped to begin demolishing the existing diner and office building within 30 days.

“I think all of the engineering and architecture ready to go. Super excited,” he said before adding a comment that suggested the project isn’t, in fact, ready to go.

“Let me know if there are any new subsidies coming up that you might know of,” he added. “I don’t think I’ll need any but always good to read into them.”

Sixty days later, there have been no new requests for a permit of any kind for the property, a process that itself can take weeks before the city grants approval.

Three separate requests for demolition permits from December 2021 and last August have sat without moving all the way through the approval process. Nikols does not have approval to knock down his buildings today.

No new permits have been requested for the property that includes the former Coachman’s diner, according to the Building Salt Lake Permitting Search feature. That’s a sign of trouble for the project that won approval last April.

Pair that with the lack of any permitting for the site — including any attempt to subdivide the property to allow for condos to be sold — and the signs that Nikols won’t be developing the diner keep piling up.

Nikols hasn’t responded to multiple follow up questions, including whether a mansion in East Millcreek that’s been for sale for the better part of a year is his, and why he hasn’t submitted for permits if the project is ready to go.

In the two months since his last email, three major banks have failed and the real estate lenders that remain have tightened up their requirements for developers. In short, putting together a major real estate project has gotten more complicated.

For a first-time real estate developer looking to build dozens of units with copious ground-floor retail, things seem even less likely.

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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.