Denver developer McWhinney bows out of Salt Lake City

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Less than three years after entering the market, the Denver-based developer McWhinney is backing out of Salt Lake City. At least, for now.

The firm came to town with big plans in 2021, picking up an aging pair of buildings and over 4 acres of land zoned Downtown (D-1), and it began moving forward with a 35-story high-rise on its site near 600 S. West Temple.

It made its debut by renovating an existing office tower and retrofitting a Red Lion hotel building offering primarily furnished studio apartments available for short- and mid-term stays. Units came with a full-size fridge, kitchenette and in-unit laundry, and McWhinney packed the building full of amenities.

They were marketed toward people looking to capitalize on Salt Lake City’s proximity to the mountains who might want to stay for a ski season while working remotely.

The residential tower and new office building would have been built next door. The tower would have added another 334 units, in addition to the 184 units that are already part of the Lattice apartments in the existing Red Lion and other multifamily building on the site, which are 70 percent leased.

McWhinney’s exit is somewhat of a surprise, given the land is one of the city’s opportunity zones, a designation that has been a saving grace for some developers who are moving forward despite significant headwinds in multifamily and office development.

The firm didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment since the site first hit the market in February. After this story published, a public relations firm sent a statement saying McWhinney was surveying its opportunities in Utah.

“McWhinney and its partners listed Lattice Apartments with CBRE as part of our ongoing, active and strategic evaluation of the asset and compelling market opportunities,” the firm said. “Strategic explorations surrounding real estate holdings are the normal course of business in the real estate industry and not necessarily a reflection of sentiment towards the market.”

“McWhinney values its relationships with the City of Salt Lake and its project partners, and we’re proud to be a steward of the Utah community,” the statement continued. “This remains an important market for us, and we look forward to exploring future opportunities to contribute to the thoughtful growth and development of the region.”

McWhinney doesn’t have any other Utah projects listed on its public-facing portfolio.

The site is being marketed by CBRE, which is a Building Salt Lake advertiser. Patrick Bodnar, CBRE senior vice president, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the sale.

The 4-acre site includes a mix of D-1 and D-2 zoning. CBRE didn’t include a price in its call for offers. The property’s assessed value has doubled since McWhinney bought it.

This story was updated with comment that came in from McWhinney’s public relations firm after the story was published.

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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.