Demolitions, highways and baseball. These were the top BSL stories from 2023.

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It finally happened. After over a decade-long building boom in Utah that was undeterred by a pandemic, water shortages and political pressures, high interest rates finally brought development to a screeching halt in 2023.

It wasn’t just Utah. Projects and building sales across the country have dried up at break-neck speed.

Developers and investors are still lining up to build in Salt Lake City when financials make more sense. But the commercial real estate industry got ice cold in 2023 with no clear signs of a thaw-out.

Still, more people read Building Salt Lake than ever this year, driven by big stories about upcoming demolitions of century-old buildings, the state’s never-ending effort to spend billions in public money widening highways, the campaigns to bring major league sports to Utah and the construction of game-changing buildings.

Consider this your Building Salt Lake wrapped, community edition 2023. These were the top stories by raw readership. (Keep an eye out for the stories we’re watching heading into 2024, the biggest trends from 2023 and more end of year coverage to come.)

Photo by LDS Architecture

1. The LDS Church is selling its 97-year-old Wells Ward chapel with one requirement: It must be demolished

While the LDS Church still owns a huge portion of land Downtown, it is shrinking throughout the rest of the city. That’s freeing up land and buildings for potential redevelopment.

In Central City, the church gave away a recreation center and adjacent vacant land to the nonprofit arm of a developer who plans to build low-income rental housing. In that case, the church allowed the developer to decide the fate of the building, so long as it wasn’t used to make or sell alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

In Liberty Wells, the church decided to sell its 98-year-old Wells Ward chapel near 500 E. Hollywood. But unlike in Central City, the church saw fit to add a requirement that the buyer demolish the existing structure.

To be sure, the March 2020 earthquake did significant damage to the building and it would cost quite a bit to restore it. But instead of leaving that up to the buyer, the church has decided to erase nearly a century’s worth of history from the neighborhood it helped name. READ MORE

Traffic on I-15 during rush hour. Photo by Flickr user Garret.

2. UDOT admits I-15 widening will cut into parks and school ball fields, while demolishing scores of homes and businesses

Other news outlets call it “urban sprawl.” But the disappearance of farmland and the seas of single-family homes abutting wetlands and climbing up hillsides is more accurately defined as “suburban sprawl.” And it’s fueled by one thing: highways.

The state of Utah remains stuck in a 20th century mindset of never-ending highway creation and expansion. That includes turning US-89 in Davis County into a freeway; adding a brand-new freeway on the shores of the Great Salt Lake; and widening I-15 through the heart of Salt Lake City.

While the Utah Department of Transportation had been shady on the known negative impacts of its widening campaign in the capital city, it admitted in May that homes, open space and community areas were on the chopping block. READ MORE

The power station and the Jordan River are two outstanding features of the west side. Rocky Mountain Power has declared its intentions to redevelop most of its site, while the city considers transitioning from light industrial to mixed-use zoning south of the North Temple transit corridor. Photo by Luke Garrott.

3. Officials interested in building an MLB stadium on Salt Lake City’s west side

When sports and real estate overlap, you can be sure we’re on it. We were happy to be the first news outlet to exclusively report that a group of some of the most powerful people in the state had launched an effort to bring a Major League Baseball team to Salt Lake City’s west side.

The group, led by Gail Miller, announced in April that it would try to attract an MLB team — likely a future expansion team — near the site that’s being redeveloped by Rocky Mountain Power. That put the city as one of the most likely spots for a future team. READ MORE

Makers Line Q Factor Titus

4. Makers Line shuts down after issues with late pay and questions about its work

Shortly after moving to Salt Lake City, Henry Jason Winkler and his wife and business partner Ellen P. Winkler found initial success in development. It put them on an expansion path.

They created a sprawling list of subsidiary companies, led by Makers Line, that became one of the fastest growing construction outfits in the state of Utah. One former employee likened it to a house of cards when it all came crashing down in late-October. READ MORE

5. Porsche actively working to move out of Salt Lake City

A John Elway dealership is under contract on a property on Wasatch Drive near Millcreek’s Olympus Cove neighborhood, sources tell Building Salt Lake. The company’s representatives worked to sell the community on the idea of a car-focused rezone at a meeting last summer.

That leaves in question the fate of the dealer’s State Street showroom — and the tax revenue that comes with it. READ MORE

6. Take a walk through one of the first mass timber buildings going up in Utah

Heralded as a way to reduce the emissions of construction, speed up projects and, frankly, make them look more attractive, mass timber construction is spreading across the U.S. It is arriving in Utah, in the Draper section of Silicon Slopes. 

We got an exclusive look at the inside while it was under construction and shared our photos and insights from the new type of construction that’s coming to the Beehive State. READ MORE

7. In his latest surprise, Coachman’s owner puts failed State Street project up for sale

The site of the shuttered Coachman’s restaurant at 1301 S. State in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Wells neighborhood hit the market on Monday after attempts to turn the restaurant and adjacent office building into a mixed-use development failed.

It may be an unpleasant surprise for a neighborhood that was promised a rare new-build condo project nearly three years ago. (Nikols died weeks after the property hit the market.) READ MORE

8. Developers buying Wells Fargo building in Sugar House with plans for new mass timber project

The Wells Fargo building on the corner of Highland Drive and 2100 South in the center of the Sugar House urban core is set to be sold at the end of the month to a buyer that is likely to construct a mid-rise residential building, Building Salt Lake has learned. READ MORE

9. After vote against Sugar House Kum & Go, the city will look to block new gas stations near parks.

Kum & Go isn’t prepared to back down from its attempt to locate a gas station on the northwest corner of Sugar House Park after losing a key vote against the project on Wednesday, according to a broker involved in the deal. Salt Lake City isn’t prepared to allow a similar battle in the future, either. READ MORE


10. Multifamily housing sales grind to a halt in Salt Lake City.

The number of transactions between building owners and investors looking to buy multifamily housing has ground to a near complete halt in Salt Lake City, the latest reaction to tighter capital markets nationwide as a result of higher interest rates. READ MORE

More reading

  1. As Utah’s building boom ends, renters are getting the upper hand. Salt Lake City’s record growth and building boom have delivered a massive new supply to the market. This has led to the market tipping in favor of renters as property managers try to fill units in a now-saturated market. Read more
  2. In-N-Out is back, this time in South Salt Lake’s new ‘downtown’. In its quest to shore up a tax base at all costs, the city of South Salt Lake is on track to approve yet another sprawling drive-thru in the heart of what is supposed to be its downtown neighborhood. Read more
  3. Planning staff tells Salt Lake City to block Kum & Go gas station next to Sugar House Park. Salt Lake City Planning staff have told a key commission to deny a request for a Kum & Go gas station immediately next to Sugar House Park. Read more
  4. Christensen: Here’s how the proposed train link from Boise to Salt Lake and Vegas misses the mark. Transit expert and BSL contributor Mike Christensen breaks down the good and bad of the SLC-Boise and SLC-Vegas rail idea. Read more
  5. LDS Church donates building and 2.5 acres in Central City to affordable housing nonprofit. A nonprofit group affiliated with one of the biggest homebuilders in Utah has acquired a building from the LDS Church, along with the nearly 2.5 acres it sits on in Salt Lake City’s Central City neighborhood. Read more
  6. Salt Lake City legalizes 4-plexes in all residential areas, ending single-family-only zoning citywide. The Salt Lake City Council voted 6-1 to dramatically change the future of infill housing in Salt Lake City in December. Read more
  7. Take a walk on top of Astra Tower on its way to becoming Utah’s tallest building. Salt Lake City’s skyline is on its way for a transformation, and one building is set to take the crown. We gave you an exclusive look. Read more
  8. Developers back out of two more east side projects amid ongoing slowdown. In the latest signal of a broad development slowdown in Salt Lake City, a pair of high-profile developments are the latest to hit the market after releasing plans for housing projects. Read more
  9. Salt Lake City’s new ADU ordinance is working. Salt Lake City homeowners are rushing to get permits to build accessory dwelling units at an unprecedented rate following changes the City Council made in April. Read more
  10. 300-foot buildings in Sugar House? That’s one developer’s idea. The Chicago-based development firm seeking to redevelop the Wells Fargo building in Sugar House wants to rewrite a portion of the zoning code to allow Downtown heights in the neighborhood’s urban core. Read more

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.