Granary upzone request continues the rising tide in south Downtown

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A proposed zoning map change at 700 South and Kilby Court is simply getting rid of split-zoning on the property, insists the developer.

The upzone request at 333-349 West 700 South is from CG General Commercial to D-2, which allows height up to 120 feet. If approved, more D-2 zoning in the Granary may presage a future where 5-over-2 buildings—incentivized by “podium and stick” construction and a previous 75-foot height limit in CG—become old school.

The tide may not just be pushing buildings taller, but also upscale. After all, the Post District is only a block away.

Let’s take a look at the neighborhood context and specific details of the zoning change request.

The request

Locals TAG SLC, a Building Salt Lake Sponsor, own the 1.54-acre assemblage at 333-349 South 700 East, only .14 acre of which is currently zoned D-2.

The city’s Planning Division is currently conducting a open house that welcomes public input.

Image courtesy SLC Planning.

The assemblage’s street front currently hosts three one-story commercial buildings, only one of which is occupied.

Jordan Atkin, a principal at TAG, told us that the 333-339 building, the old Bestway Janitorial Supplies, is currently leased long-term to a glass blowing studio and a maker of interactive education exhibits.

333-339 W 700 S. Kilby Ct., left. The famed music venue is in the middle of the block. Image courtesy Google.

And he’s quite happy with that arrangement.

“I have a sketch but literally no plan for the property. Our development team isn’t terribly busy right now, so we’re pulling old projects off the shelf,” he told us. “It’s just compliance.”

That “compliance” also makes the 1.4 acres proposed to move from CG to D-2 capable of development possibilities that CG can’t offer – even as the city is dangling an increase in height from 75’ to 105’ in this area of CG (21A.26.070.G).

The potential – a level up in height

We asked Atkin what the difference in height might make.

“At 120 feet you can consider concrete and steel technology that’s not available at 75,” he told us.

The surrounding zoning context.

And, one wonders if mass timber might also have a role to play at that increased height.

“I’m not that experimental, but we’d definitely consider mass timber if it gets viable in the market.”

That seems a while off. Unless buyers come along, of course.

Yet Atkin insists he’d be “happiest to sit on the property for 10 years with the tenants that we have,” indicating that he has no appetite to move forward in the current development climate.

He’s not alone on the block.

A proposal immediately to the west of Fisher Brewing that looked to being the dramatic transformation of the Kilby Court block is dead and for sale. With its city entitlements complete, the project may yet get built.

Atkin revealed that he’s keen to see what the Intermountain “urban hospital” at 754 S State St. brings to south Downtown.

Added potential—a level up in posh?

While the efficiency potential for a structure on 1.54 acres in D-2 zoning is likely impressive, the increased number of units may also be accompanied by an increase in rents.

The Post District, just a block immediately to the north, has set a design standard that may need to be equaled by aspiring competitors in the future.

In addition, Atkin mentioned that Intermountain’s “urban hospital” on the old Sears Block at 754 S. State might also work to tip the scales toward more luxury developments in the formerly industrial neighborhood.

“We’re going to watch what IHC does over on State Street. After that’s completed it may be the right time for a more premium product in the Granary,” he forecasted.

His property is just 2.5 blocks from Main Street, the western border of the Intermountain property, currently only excavated and known as “Sears Lake.”

It is also less than a half mile of the Central 9th TRAX stop at 900 South and 200 West. The developer’s narrative submitted to the city notes “This location is strategically positioned within 0.4 miles of one Trax station and 0.6 miles of another, making it an ideal choice for public transportation access.”

Yet if past developers’ choices are any indication, the hundreds of units permitted to the site will also be built with an equal number of parking stalls.

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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.