Downtown Residential project moves forward

Rendering of 616 Lofts as pictured from State Street.
Rendering of 616 Lofts as pictured from 600 South.

The Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved height and commercial use variances with conditions Wednesday for a project planned for a long, underutilized lot in downtown Salt Lake.  Wasatch Group requested the extra height for a proposed affordable, residential mixed-use development, the 616 Lofts, at the southwest corner of the 600 South State Street intersection.

Wasatch group will develop the project in collaboration with the Utah Housing Corporation, Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund and Salt Lake City Housing Trust Fund.

The six-story, project will include five floors of residential consisting of 273 units.  The ground floor is reserved for parking the leasing office and other residential amenities.

The developers requested height variances because the project is located in two separate zoning districts with different height restrictions.  The north side is zoned D-1 (Central Business District), while the south side is zoned D-2, (Downtown Support District).  Under D-1, buildings in close proximity to intersections must have a minimum height of 100 feet.  D-2 zoning limits building height to 65 feet.  The proposed project will be 74 feet.

Developers requested a variance to the ground floor commercial requirement under D-1 zoning.   Buildings zoned D-1 are required to have parking behind street-fronting, ground floor commercial space.  The developers could build the parking structure as a separate building to bypass the commercial use requirement.  Instead, the developer’s proposed locating the leasing office and exercise room on the ground level fronting 600 South while still incorporating parking into the main structure.

The ground-floor portion fronting State Street will include leasable office space.

Wasatch Group has also developed the Providence Place apartments and the nearly-completed, Encore Apartments.  The 616 Lofts apartments will have a similar design as the Encore Apartments with second-floor common courtyards breaking up the building along 600 South.

The developer’s original proposal included almost no ground-floor activity.  The developers proposed ground floor parking with large glass windows lining the street-facing side, similar to the design of the Encore Apartments.

According to planning staff, active ground floor requirements are needed, “to ensure that the street is activated by preventing parking structures from being built in the mid-block areas of the downtown that include either no other uses along the street level or small commercial spaces that are not big enough to support viable uses.”

The development occupies over half the block facing 600 South.  Although the developers will not be required to have commercial space along 600 South, the project will be required to engage at the street level and incorporate a street-level design that breaks up the monotony of the large development.

Other conditions for approval include a mid-block walkway along the project’s western edge, entrance awnings, street trees along the park strip and water efficient landscaping.

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