Fleet Block update – City looks poised to rezone, restrict, and market properties

It’s been over 12 years since Salt Lake City moved its fleet operations out of the Granary District.

Once seen as a necessary catalyst for redevelopment of the area, the Fleet Block now lags behind the projects that have sprouted in its dormancy. At the leading edge of that development were tap-houses and non-profit mixed-use, and more recently retail, food + beverage, office, housing, and of course, structured parking.

Yet movement at city hall is apparent. The city council is scheduled make some key moves on the Fleet Block in July, including to adopting the new FB-UN-3 zone and committing to public streets and open space on the 8.75 acre site just southwest of Downtown.

The City is getting closer to issuing (yet another) RFP or RFQ for each of the three properties it now plans to market separately. It hopes to attract a diversity of developers for the former industrial site, which is burdened not only by environmental contamination but what is shaping up to be a long and ambitious list of public requirements.

Let’s take a look at the Administration’s latest proposal, tentatively scheduled for the Council’s July 18 meeting.

The purpose

In its official transmittal dated June 2, Community and Neighborhoods’ Deputy Director Tammy Hunsaker frames the Administration’s intentions as “transform[ing] the 8.75-acres of underutilized City-owned property between 300 and 400 West, 800 and 900 South into community assets that will contribute to the economic, social, and environmental betterment of the city.”

Speaking of the steps necessary to market the properties, the memo states “the forthcoming procurement and development processes will include requirements to ensure that the ultimate development provides economic opportunities, affordable living, and cultural expression for all residents, particularly communities of low- and moderate-income and persons who are minorities.”

The Administration is responding to Mayor Mendenhall’s priorities as well as the wishes of the city council. Those took a decidedly racial- and social justice trajectory after the summer of 2020, when murals and memorials to people killed by police were sanctioned by the city along the block’s 300 West and 800 South frontages.

The requirements

Community and Neighborhoods is proposing a selection committee that “inclusive of community representatives from diverse backgrounds along with City representatives.” It will evaluate, rank, and select proposals.

In addition, winning respondents will have to enter into a community benefits agreement (CBA) with “community-based organizations representing residents’ interests. The agreements shall define the benefits the community will receive in exchange for supporting the project.”

 To “provide accountability for the City and the developer,” metrics like “affordability, underrepresented populations, climate resiliency, community health, and social and economic justice” will be developed to track and measure the project’s outcomes.

The site also needs substantial environment cleanup. Depending on the uses it will ultimately support, the city estimated in 2022 that figure to be between $600,000 and $2.5 million.

Appraisals on the site have fluctuated. In December 2019 comparables rated it at $23.3 million, while by January 2022 the market price was likely to be $37.5 million. At $4.29 million per acre, that valuation would not likely stand today.

The proposal

Discussions at city hall, which we last reported on in April of last year, have concretized into a scheme to divide the parcel into four, with a large quadrant on the southeast reserved for a public park.

The Administration is proposing 3 acres of open space at 300 West and 900 South—to “support the Green Loop and 9 Line” as well as being located to take advantage of sun exposure.

Courtesy SLC Department of Community and Neighborhoods.

The location originally proposed for the public space was the northeast corner of the block, at 300 West and 800 South.

That location is at the intersection of the memorial walls, but would also be mostly shaded in the likelihood of 125-foot building heights to the south (the maximum allowed in FB-UN-3). Also overhead it suffers massive transmission lines for electricity.

Burying those lines is notoriously expensive, and while once on list of priorities of the Redevelopment Agency, seems to be out of the current discussion (see comments by the RDA’s project manager at the time, Matt Dahl).

Notably, the block will be structured by two midblock streets. With perhaps equal measures of ambivalence and intention, the memo states “The ultimate goal is to have all of the midblock connections owned and maintained by the City.”

Courtesy SLC Department of Community and Neighborhoods.

Two of the segments will be built by the city in concert with the development of the open space. The memo notes “Three of the midblock segments are proposed to be open to motor vehicles, while the southern segment will be integrated into the public space with limited vehicular access to draw pedestrians and cyclists from the Green Loop into the block and public space.”

The city has multiple funding streams to finance the park project. It was included in the 2022 trails, parks, and open space bond, and impact fees from Granary development are likely beginning to trickle in. The sale or leasing of its Fleet Block parcels can also be earmarked for public amenities.

Those three development parcels, varying in size from 1 to 2.3 acres, are intended to be offered to separate development teams.

The zoning

First transmitted to the City Council in April 2020, the latest version of Form Based Urban Neighborhood FB-UN-3 zoning – the newest and most intensive FB zone—will be also considered in July.

The Administration is proposing that the Council amend the code to include the new zone, as well as rezone most of the block from Public Lands to FB-UN-3.

Administration planners have incorporated a ground-floor activation requirement in light of discussions at the Planning Commission. If a building’s façade is 100 feet or more, 30% of street-facing uses must be “active.” Those uses exclude dwellings (except in row houses), and include “retail establishments, retail services, civic spaces (theaters, museums, etc.), restaurants, bars, art and craft studios, and other uses deemed to be substantially similar.”

In addition, all street frontage facing 900 South and sitting on FB-UN-3 zoning must include active uses.  

Heights in are limited to 125 feet, and any building over 85 feet is required to go through design review. Roof decks and parapets are allowed to exceed 125 feet.

The new FB-UN-3 ordinance is linked to changes in the Downtown Heights and Street Activation ordinance, which is also sitting in the Council office and currently unscheduled.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.