Commission approves revised Cowboy project

Revised renderings of the south façade of Liberty Square. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

After two public hearings and a work session, representatives from Cowboy Partners have again returned to the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) for approval of their plans to redevelop the former Ensign Floral building and adjacent parcels.

But unlike the past meetings with the commission, Thursday’s public hearing was relatively brief before the HLC unanimously approved a Certificate of Appropriateness with conditions for a new construction request by Cowboy Partners to build the Liberty Square project on the 600 East block of 500 South in the Central City Historic District.

“We are excited about this and we stayed with our mid-century modern theme,” said Douglas Thimm of Architectural Nexus, the architects of the project. “We are trying to present something that has very strong horizontal lines.”

Thursday’s approved design is a scaled-down version of a design the commission approved last summer.  The new design will include the same exterior materials approved by the HLC last year but instead of a four-story building with 135 residential units, Cowboy now plans to build eight townhome-style apartment buildings.  The buildings will have a combined total of 48 residential units.  Each building will be three stories with a garage on the ground floor, living room and kitchen on the second floor and the bedrooms on the third floor.  The homes will include balconies on both the second and third floors.

Site plan for Liberty Square. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

As with the previous design, the corner of 500 South and Green Street, the midblock street that connects Trader Joes and other 400 South retail spaces to 500 South, will serve as the architectural focus with the lobby, fitness center and leasing office occupying that space.

The adaptive reuse plans for the Ensign Floral Building will remain the same and therefore don’t need new approvals.  The building will be converted to a residential use with five apartments.  The floral building was built in 1959 and is considered a contributing historical structure representing the modern architectural style.

The developers will add pedestrian enhancements to 600 South and Green Street.  In addition to the Green Street improvements, Cowboy plans to add a north-to-south walkway at the west side of the development and an east-to-west walkway that will connect the northernmost townhomes to Green Street and the west side walkway.  But according to Thimm, the internal walkways won’t be accessible to the public and will most likely be gated off to the surrounding block to “create a safe environment for residents.

Several commission members questioned the amount of planned green space in the updated design.  In the current design, most of the green space will be part of the landscaping along the street and directly adjacent to the units.   Developers didn’t include any public plazas or large gathering places for residents.

“This is an urban environment and having some outdoor space is important; but, having connections to the rest of the city is really the big part of the idea of how you develop a site like this in this location,” said Thimm.

Although the developers received new construction approvals the developers will need to return to the HLC at a later date for final approval of the project’s signage.

Revised renderings of the west façade of Liberty Square. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.
Rendering of the east façade of Liberty Square facing Green Street. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.
Rendering of the previously approved design of the Liberty Square Apartments as designed by Architectural Nexus. Image courtesy Salt Lake City Planning Division.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at