Downtown officials launch new downtown plan

Graphic showing the progress of various projects in downtown Salt Lake City. Image courtesy the Downtown Alliance.

Downtown Salt Lake City is experiencing unprecedented growth.  In anticipation of current and future growth, the Downtown Alliance in collaboration with city and county leaders, announced the 2017 Downtown Rising Action Plan, an expansion of the 2007 Downtown Rising campaign, Wednesday morning at the Eccles Theater on Main Street.

“We don’t intend to put this action plan on a shelf.  Just like downtown, this plan is a living document,” said Downtown Alliance executive director Jason Mathis. “It lays out our ambitions and best thinking at this moment in time.  But we reserve the right to make changes to the plan as our city evolves, based on new needs, updated information, best practices and even better thinking.”

Local leaders announced plans to develop an updated downtown plan at a celebration last year of the 10 year anniversary of the original Downtown Rising campaign that was launched to coincide with the development of the City Creek Center.   Unlike the Downtown Rising campaign that focused on a vision and highlighted projects in development at the time, the Downtown Rising Action Plan will actively pursue key objectives intended to be catalysts for further growth.

According to a statement from the Downtown Alliance, the 2017 Downtown Rising Action Plan will continue to evolve as downtown’s needs change and is the result of a consensus-driven, business-led strategy for prioritization and planning that will be updated annually.  The plan outlines emerging trends and identifies key objectives for continued downtown development. 

The emerging trends include:

  • Rise in residential growth
  • The growth of the technology industry in downtown
  • A youthful workforce
  • Cultural investments like the Eccles Theater
  • Investments in our sports and entertainment district at The Gateway and Vivint Smart Home Arena
  • Salt Lake City’s role as a world destination with the reconstruction of our international airport as well as a vibrant refugee and immigrant community.

The Downtown Rising Action Plan focuses on seven new priorities:

  • A sports and entertainment district that benefits The Gateway and Vivint Smart Home Arena
  • A cultural core place making and programming effort
  • Investment in transportation
  • A digital media and arts center
  • A downtown school for K-8
  • Reinvesting in Pioneer Park with infrastructure and a public-private management plan
  • A technology campus

The ten-year plan recognizes immediate objectives, medium and ongoing objectives.  Immediate objectives, for the next three years,  include a year-round public market (planned as part of the Station Center project), the Convention Center Hotel, a tech campus, strengthening the cultural core and creating a sports and entertainment district.

The plan also calls for transportation improvements to downtown including a circulator bus, a downtown streetcar and enhancements to 400, 500 and 600 South.

While the plan looks guide downtown Salt Lake’s future growth, downtown is currently growing at a historic rate.  According to a 2016 report by James Wood, Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, more residential units will be development downtown in the next 10 years than were collectively developed in the previous 100.

Wood estimates that the greater downtown area will add 3,000 more rental units and 20,000 new residents by 2020.   The 3,000 new multifamily units would bring the total of rental units in and around downtown to 10,000 which is nearly double the 5,200 downtown units reported in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Building Salt Lake estimates that there are nearly 2,700 multifamily units actively under construction in downtown and downtown-adjacent neighborhoods.  The 2,700 units account for about 60 percent of the total multifamily units under construction in the city.

Residential development may be leading the growth downtown, but several commercial developments are in the works that will expand the city’s skyline and bring hundreds more workers downtown.

There are currently four commercial developments actively planned for downtown, many of which could start construction this year.

Boyer is still moving forward with 151 State, a proposed 18-story tower on the 100 south block of State Street that would add 22,000 square feet of commercial space to downtown.

Developers, Form Development, expect to start construction on the Regent Street Hotel later this year.  The proposed 20-story hotel will occupy the northeast corner of the 200 South and State Street intersections.

A Houston developer plans to build two, ten-story commercial office buildings on the 600 South block of Main Street, while the proposed Convention Center Hotel could potentially be the city new tallest building.

“Downtown Rising is unique because it is not a government-led initiative for city planning,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “Instead, it is an aspirational plan that includes the best thinking of developers, the business community, individual citizens and political leaders.”

The 2017 report can be downloaded here: http://downtownrising.com/_files/DTR_ActionPlan_2017Final.pdf

Development map of recently completed projects and projects in development in downtown Salt Lake City. Image courtesy the Downtown Alliance.

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 isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.