Described as “a thread of water coming through a linear park,” the Folsom Trail project recently wrapped up its conceptual design process. The effort is crucial to the city’s attempt to gentrify the North Temple transit corridor, which lies just a single block and change to the north.
The designs are hailed by west side City Council Members, who see the amenities associated with the daylighting of city creek as long deserved by their constituents. Yet they also warned that “real homelessness solutions need to be in place” for the city’s investment to pay off.
The final designs are now waiting for a council appropriation of $1 million to fund construction engineering drawings. The project has already received $2 million for landscaping from the recent parks bond. Final construction and operating costs are significantly higher.
Let’s take a look the final concepts, budget estimates, and timeline, which were presented to the City Council as the Redevelopment Agency Board meeting last week.
We reported on the previous iteration of the project last January.
In that time, public and stakeholder feedback—and the Mayor’s new emphasis on linear parks Downtown (see the Green Loop)—drove the designs toward a more naturalistic direction.
The focal point of the nearly three-block segment is a pond and gathering space is at its eastern end, adjacent to Union Pacific tracks (3) and a hulking 15-lane (counting shoulders) Interstate-15 dual overpass.
Bradley Kraushaar from CRSA Architecture, the city’s consultants on the project, described their intention to “introduce a whole bunch of trees, as much as an urban canopy as possible” in the plaza.
This area will also feature a pond, with a “cascade” feature, which will serve as the headwaters for the City Creek segment to be daylighted. The water will need to be pumped up to the pond, Kraushaar explained, which only has an 18-inch grade advantage over the terminus of the surfaced creek at 10th West.
RDA Board members asked whether the flow into the pond would vary by season. Kraushaar assured them there would be a 365-day “anticipated base flow” that would be controlled by the pump.
Another notable update is the widening of the trail space between 900 and 1000 West. Designers are recommending “reclaiming” part of the right-of-way that is currently paved with asphalt and used almost exclusively by cars servicing the light-industrial uses along Folsom Avenue.
A wall of greenery is planned to buffer the trail from the businesses to the south of that segment. Council Member Alejandro Puy, who represents the area (D2) noted that the local businesses that exist there along Folsom are enthusiastic supporters of the plans, and that “expectations are high in the neighborhood.”
The plan highlights the importance of programming, and the space underneath I-15 was identified as place of special need and opportunity by both Kraushaar and Board Members.
“Through paint, and especially lighting, you can bring the overall placemaking to another level,” the designer from CRSA said. The plan shows examples of murals and underpass mood lighting.
The mood currently under these bridges is a desperate one, as they provide overhead shelter in a UDOT right-of-way that frequently tolerates urban campers.
Board Member Victoria Petro, who also represents the west side (D1), offered a dose of realism to the presentation that had been previously lacking.
“We need to have real homelessness solutions in place in order for this sort of investment to function for all Salt Lakers,” she told her colleagues.
District 2’s Puy echoed her caution, saying “these spaces ought to be inviting to everyone, they should be safe, and we deserve that. There is a lot of work to be done.”
The other elephant in the room
Not a few, but four of the seven Council Members drew attention to a problem not addressed in the designs: the inaccessibility to the eastern end of the project area due to train tracks.
There, at South Temple and 600 West, the Folsom Trail is interrupted by trains, both freight and commuter, that cross at grade.
Not coincidentally, the only speaker during the RDA’s public comment period was a supporter of the Rio Grande Plan, which proposes to underground all but one of the lines in this area.
Latest budget estimates
The final designs also offer decision-makers three tiers of amenities to choose from, low, medium, and high cost.
The purse strings are in the hands of the City Council, who will likely be awaiting a proposal from the Mayor in a future RDA budget. Estimates at this point, with 40% of pre-construction drawings finished, is $12.2 million for construction and a yearly bill of $134,000 for operating and maintenance.
RDA staff told the Board that they will be seeking $1 million to produce construction-ready design documents.
In the meantime, Council Member Darin Mano (D5) suggested that some of the existing $2 million for landscaping be used soon for flexible installations to test various configurations of greenery.
We will be watching to see how phasing of funding is proposed, and how quickly the city moves the project into implementation.
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