Cowboy downsizes Liberty Square development

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

With rising construction costs, most developers try to build bigger instead of smaller.  But in the case of Cowboy Partners, nine months after securing approval from the Historic Landmark Commission to build the Liberty Square apartments, the developers are returning to the commission with a subdued proposal built around the previously approved design.

In July 2016, the HLC approved the Liberty Square project, proposed for the 600 East block of 500 South, after a previously tabled hearing and a work session with the developers.  The approved design included four floors of new construction residential with 135 units and an adaptive reuse of the Ensign Floral Building on 600 East.

Building materials planned for the Liberty Square development. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

The updated project proposal plans for significantly fewer units.  Instead, the new proposal is for 48 townhomes in eight buildings and five units in the Ensign Floral Building.  According to planning documents, each townhome 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.

The plans for the Ensign Floral Building will virtually remain the same.  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.

Cowboy plans minimal changes to the building’s exterior, including re-establishing the former steel canopy that protected the building’s entrances and repair the planters on the west side of the building.  The surface parking that separates the floral building from the street will be retained and serve as parking for the five new apartments.

The updated project retains a similar aesthetic to the previously approved design and will have similar setbacks despite the project’s reduced density.  The corner of 500 South and Green Street will still serve as the architectural focus with the lobby, fitness center and leasing office occupying that space.

The change from a multifamily apartment building to townhomes has allowed the developers to add more pedestrian connections on the block.  Pedestrian enhancements will be made to the Green Street alley that connects Trader Joes and other 400 South retail spaces to 500 South.  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 west side walkway.

Although the many of the design elements are similar, Cowboy Partners will need to return to the HLC for new construction approvals for the revised design.  Because the plans for the Ensign Floral Building remain the same, the developers will not need new approvals for their planned adaptive reuse.

While planning documents don’t specifically state that the townhomes will be rentals, the project’s architects refer to a leasing office in the project description and renderings which suggest that the townhomes will not be owner-occupied.

Rendering of the previously approved design of the Liberty Square Apartments as designed by Architectural Nexus. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.
Revised renderings of the south façade of Liberty Square. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.
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.


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