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

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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.

The buyers have the option to extend the closure of the sale for two more weeks at the end of the month, though the sale is expected to go through.

If it’s finalized, the buyers intend to build what would be Salt Lake City’s first mass timber residential project, at 1095 E. 2100 S., the epicenter of the Sugar House urban district.

Mass timber posts, beams, and panels are factory pressed and glued thin layers of trees. They are strong enough to be built to 18 stories, and perform well in seismic events. As they become mass manufactured, their cost is expected to be significantly lower than concrete and steel. 

Renderings aren’t yet available, and the developers would need to go through the design review process that’s required for all new buildings of significance in the Sugar House Business District. 

If they receive city approval, the builders would be allowed to construct a building up to 105 feet tall on the corner, or about nine stories. Given its spot in the neighborhood, it’s very likely the ground floor would have retail space.

CSHBD1 zoning requires the first floor of buildings fronting 2100 South and Highland to have active uses. Live/work units are allowed. Single-use residences aren’t allowed on the ground floor.

And given that Highland Drive and 2100 South are effectively the Main Streets of the business district, the building is likely to receive high rent from both the ground floor and residences above.

Wells Fargo won’t be moving far from its current location.

“Wells Fargo has signed a lease to lease space directly across the street in the Vue project,” said Kip Paul, vice chairman of investment sales for Cushman and Wakefield, who represented the seller. “They have til the end of the year 2023 to do that, move and close the current location.”

It’s unlikely the project moves forward before 2024, though it would likely begin moving through the permitting process in relatively short order this year if the sale closes.

This is a rendering for a previous plans by the developer that is purchasing the Wells Fargo building in Sugar House. It may provide an insight into what’s in store for the corner of Highland Drive and 2100 South in Sugar House.

A sneak peek at the plans?

The buyers have tried to build mass timber in Salt Lake City in recent history.

Harbor Bay, a Chicago-based firm, proposed to build a 10-story mass timber building near the University of Utah, at 1350 E. 300 S. Those plans faced pushback from nearby residents and never materialized.

But it’s likely the previous concept near the U and other projects Harbor Bay has built provide hints at what we might see built on the corner.

For one thing, the assemblage of land involved in the university concept is similar to the size of the Wells Fargo parcel in Sugar House, meaning there would be enough land to carry over much of the past design into the new site.

Zoning in the urban core of Sugar House already allows for buildings up to 105 feet and wouldn’t require a rezone for a mid-rise project to move forward, a significant hurdle for the university concept. 

Harbor Bay recently built a 10-story mass timber office project in Cleveland, which at the time was the tallest such project in the U.S. (Milwaukee is now home to the nation’s tallest mass timber project, which stands at 25 stories and 284 feet high.)

The project in Cleveland was a 298-unit, 115-foot mixed-use mass timber project with 35,000 square feet of retail space.

A Harbor Bay representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment over the weekend.

Harbor Bay paired with the Bascom Group on the project.

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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.