Stalled Cottonwood Mall project lands anchor

Rendering of Cottonwood Square.
Rendering of Cottonwood Square.

The site of the former Cotttonwood Mall in the city of Holladay, a suburb of Salt Lake City, which has been one of the regions’ last visual reminders of the Great Recession finally appears poised for a full recovery.   Howard Hughes Corp, the owners of the site on corner of 4800 South and Highland Drive, announced last week that Smith’s Food and Drug has agreed to a deal that will bring a 78,000-square-foot store and a multilevel parking structure to developer’s proposed development, Cottonwood Square.

The development will turn the 57-acre vacant site into be a mixed-use, European-style town center.   The development will be a walkable neighborhood offering 600 residential units, 620,000 square feet dedicated to retail and entertainment and 260,000 square feet of commercial office space.

The lease agreement with Smith’s Food and Drug is a big step forward for a project that has been stalled for years.  The Cottonwood mall was demolished in 2008 to make way for a mixed used lifestyle center.  Plans for the project were put on hold after the Great Recession hit and many large development projects lost their financing.

The mall site has remained vacant in the six years since the mall’s demolition.   A year after demolition, the developer for the mall’s site, General Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy.   In 2011 the Howard Hughes Corp (the post bankruptcy off-shoot of General Growth Properties)  presented revised plans for the site but no large tenants were secured.

Like the “Sugar Hole”, another large, mixed-use project that stalled after the Great Recession, the “Cottownwood Hole” frustrated residents and became a source of contention.  The Granite School District complained about lost tax revenue and numerous businesses  closed their doors due to the loss customers that were previously drawn to the area by the former Cottonwood Mall.

Last year’s mayoral candidates used the failed mall site as a campaign issue, promising to pressure the developers to do something with site.

Until last week’s news, the project’s developers were ambiguous about the status of the Cottonwood development.   The project’s website stated that the plans for the property were “under consideration” and that plans were  “being developed to best position the property for the unique opportunities presented by evolving market conditions.”

The signing of a grocery store shows that there is confidence in the project.  Grocery stores are typically the hardest tenants to sign for large mixed-use developments, because grocers want to be assured that their store will have immediate success before committing to a new location.  Besides the Smith’s, the only other secured tenant for Cottonwood Square is a Macy’s that was part of the former mall and has managed to stay open since the mall’s demolition.

Construction of Cottonwood Square has yet to start, and no timeline has been given by the developers.  The Smith’s store is slated to open in  2016.