Vestar, The Gateway’s owners since 2015, will need to clear several administration hurdles before they can start construction on a new hotel adjacent to the historic Union Pacific Depot. The developers will need approvals from both the city’s Planning and Historic Landmark Commissions.
On Wednesday, October 10, the project’s architects, HKS Architects, and development team, the Athens Group, participated in a work session with the Salt Lake City Planning Commission to work out any potential issues that could impede future approvals.
Vestar proposes building an eight-story hotel that will wrap around the west face of the historic, former train station. As currently proposed, the project will include the renovation of the Union Pacific Depot and eight floors of new construction directly west of the Depot. The project will add around 225 guest rooms, 26 suites, a coffee shop and over 6,700 square feet of restaurant space to The Gateway.
At eight floors, the project will top out at 99 feet, the same height as the Depot building. The project is in the Gateway-Mixed Use zoning district, which allows building heights up to 75 feet. The developers are going through the Conditional Building and Site Design Review process which allows developers to build up to 120 feet with Planning Commission approval. The project will also need approval from the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) because of the historic designation of the Depot building.
The exterior of three-story Union Pacific Depot will remain mostly unchanged. The ground floor fronting 400 West will include the hotel reception, a lobby bar and the building’s two east-facing entryways. The iconic Grand Train Hall will be preserved with the building’s south wing (formerly the home of Urban Outfitters) will be converted into a restaurant.
The depot’s second and third floors will include administrative offices, guest rooms and suites. A boardroom and specialty bar will occupy the space above the reception and lobby bar on the second floor.
The new construction portion will contain the bulk of the hotel’s guest rooms on floors two to eight. The ground floor will include meeting space, a junior ballroom and a fitness center. The building will have a c-type curvature that will allow for an open courtyard to separate the new building from the historic depot building. A coffee shop will front the courtyard and connect to the depot building. The courtyard will also open directly to the Olympic Fountain Plaza and The Gateway with a portion of the first floor opened up below a seven-story bridge that will house each floors’ suites.
“We are trying to create a place, not just a pass-through area, but a place that is comfortable with amenities that people will feel comfortable spending time in,” said one of the project’s architects from HKS.
Typically work sessions with the Commission can last several hours, but during Wednesday’s meeting, the work session lasted about half an hour. Commission members were overwhelmingly positive in their feedback especially for the planned activation of the space and preservation on the Depot.
Commission member Weston Clark expressed concern about the hotel blocking the western views of the Depot from inside The Gateway and wondered if the project will be received negatively by the HLC for that reason. But the HLC may be limited on how much it can influence the hotel’s design as the commission will only be approving alterations to the historic Depot building and not the new construction hotel.
Vestar will need to return to the Planning Commission at a later date. The developers have yet to meet with the HLC. Vestar hopes to start construction next year with a 2021 anticipated completion date.