Council sets height limit for proposed convention center hotel

Aerial view of the D-4 zoning district in downtown Salt Lake. Image courtesy Salt Lake City.
Aerial view of the D-4 zoning district in downtown Salt Lake. Image courtesy Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake’s next tallest skyscraper won’t be west of the Main Street corridor anytime soon.  On Tuesday, the Salt Lake City Council unanimously voted to restrict the height of a proposed convention center hotel to a maximum height of 375 feet.  The height restriction was part of an amendment to a zoning change for the blocks between 200 South to South Temple and West Temple to 200 West.  The zoning change will allow for increased height for the hotel if it occupies the Salt Palace blocks.

“Three hundred seventy-five feet is reasonable” said Council member Stan Penfold.  “The concern is the unlimited height.”

Late 2015, the Becker administration had requested a zoning change similar to the D-1 zone which allows for corner building heights up to 375 feet and 100 feet for mid block parcels on the blocks between West Temple and 200 East in the Downtown Business District.  Under the D-1 zone, developers can surpass the building limits through a Conditional Building and Site Design Review (CBSDR).

The convention center is zoned D-4 which allows for building heights up to 75 feet and up to 100 feet through the CBSDR.

In December the Planning Commission voted to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council that would allow for unlimited height for the proposed hotel on the blocks above the convention center.  The recommendation would treat the Salt Palace blocks as corner parcels in the D-1 zone, which allows for unlimited height through the CBSDR process.

Tuesday’s vote means that the convention center parcels would be treated more like mid-block parcels in the D-1 zone.  Developers of the proposed convention center hotel will be required to go before the planning commission for a CBSDR but with the maximum allowed height of 375 feet (the same height as 99 West, the high rise condo tower at the West Temple and South Temple intersection).

“This is a pretty significant structure downtown,” said Penfold. “This (site design review) gives us the opportunity to mitigate its impact.”

During Tuesday’s council work session, which preceded the formal council meeting, Penfold requested that the zoning amendment include language that stipulates that the new hotel does not negatively impact the nearby Buddhist Temple and Japanese Church of Christ directly west of the convention center on 100 South.

Council also included language in the zoning amendment vote that formally identifies the southeast corner of the convention center as the council’s preferred site.  According to Penfold, having the convention center at the Salt Palace’s southeast corner, at the intersection of 200 South and West Temple, could help activate 200 South and be a catalysts for economic development on the corridor. 

Besides the southeast corner, Salt Lake county officials are considering the proposed hotel for the north end of the convention center between the center’s main entrance and Abravanel Hall.

While Salt Lake County has yet to officially announce where above the Salt Palace the hotel would be built, talk of unlimited heights and building above the Salt Palace concerned residents of 99 West that views would be lost.

“I’m not convinced that this (the hotel) obstructs the view,” said Penfold.

During the council work session, Council member Lisa Adams argued that even if the proposed hotel is on the north side it would not block the views at 99 west because the hotel would be built south of Abravanel Hall and the newly redesigned plaza to the east.

Several council members questioned staff if the hotel could be feasibly built at 375 feet.

“What it comes down to is the footprint and meeting space,” said Salt Lake City Manager, Nick Norris. 

Norris told council that extra height would allow for a more narrow building.  Norris also advised Council that the project could be built at 375 feet but it would be need to be wider to accommodate the 1,000 plus rooms and meeting space that Salt Lake County requires for the selected developer, DDRM Cos, to receive $75 million in tax credits.  

Council also indicated that proposed hotel must not cast prolonged shadows on the solar panels on the roof of the convention center.  The hotel’s architects will be tasked with designing a project that includes the needed hotel rooms and meeting space while not casting a prolonged shadow on the Salt Palace’s roof. 

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