Here’s how one team says the city could revitalize Ballpark and generate $900M in the process

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Months before the Miller family announced it would end more than a century of baseball in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood, a team of architects located near the neighborhood was interested in how it could improve conditions around the stadium.

At the time, there was a new master plan in the works that envisioned a thriving urban district near 1300 S. West Temple, fueled by a dense mix of housing, shops, restaurants and civic institutions that could transform the area from a summertime hit to a year-round destination.

Architect Jon Lee was particularly familiar with existing conditions in the neighborhood — he sits on the city’s Planning Commission, which helped vet the community-led master plan, and his office looks out across State Street at the Ballpark neighborhood.

Lee’s position on the commission gave him a deep understanding of the details in the master plan, which calls for dense housing surrounding the stadium, a festival street on West Temple, improvements to the 1300 South Trax station and other general updates in the neighborhood.

So he starting working on what would become not only a professionally laid out conceptual plan, but one that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the city with relatively little public investment, achieving many of the master plan’s goals and updating the Bees stadium in the process.

Jon Lee | Founding Principal, DOT-Architecture

Then the Millers announced the Bees would leave the city for far southwest suburbs, a move that will leave behind uncertainty for the already struggling neighborhood in its wake.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall quickly announced a contest for residents, students and professional planners to create a plan for what’s next at the soon-to-be-vacant site.

The contest deadline is this Friday and is likely to pull in dozens of ideas for what to do with the 13.5 acres of stadium and vacant parking lot.

Having spent time pulling together what he feels is an achievable plan, Lee still released his concept, which he said would return over $900 million directly to the city over the coming 50 years, though he doesn’t plan to submit it for consideration in the contest.

“It’s just been a passion project for our office,” Lee said.

Given the firm came up with not just a concept but a way to generate revenue for the city, Building Salt Lake reached out to get the details on Lee’s ideas.

‘Friends of Ballpark’ Project Details 

Lee and his team at DOT-Architecture used concepts from the master plan and began to assemble them into a conceptual layout of housing, community spaces, parks and retail on what is currently a city-owned parking lot that’s used about 20 percent of the year for fans to park their cars when going to Bees games.

Then they worked with the local design-build firm Makers Line to estimate how much it would cost to actually build the project.

Not stopping there, they worked with Texas-based Servitas, a fee developer that has experience assembling financing for projects that can be owned by universities (in the case of student housing) or municipalities (in the case of workforce housing and community areas).

That professional expertise led to a project estimate of around $229 million. About 62 percent of that would come from a bond obtained through Servitas through what’s known as a public-private-partnership development. The city would front the other $87 million or so. 

Under that framework, the city would own and retain the land and the assets built on them.

Rents in the nearly 600 units would be as low as $649 a month, a number that was pre-approved by Servitas. If rents were higher, returns to the city would likely grow, as well.

Video from DOT-Arc shows the concept it was well underway with before the Miller family announced it was moving the Salt Lake Bees from the Ballpark neighborhood after over a century of baseball played in the neighborhood.

Using the expected rent, the city could pay down the bond ahead of schedule, pay for stadium improvements (or a replacement amenity), or use the money for other city projects and services.

The concept largely focuses on the parking lot north of the stadium, given it was initially premised on revitalizing the area in tandem with the Bees staying on site.

Lee said his team reached out to the city but had little response. The group isn’t being paid for any of the work.

“From the beginning we just wanted to talk about the master plan and how that can be obtained in the neighborhood,” Lee said.

DOT-Arc designed a large community space including a library on the northeast corner of 1300 S. West Temple.

The conceptual design of that space included part of the building going underground, with the roof ascending as a staircase leading up to an outdoor plaza between several mixed-use buildings.

That mix of uses would include a large daycare facility with space for two age groups, a pet care space and other general retail.

Mallie Lanham | Director of Business Development at DOT_Architecture

“We were working on something tangible to show the city,” said Mallie Lanham, director of business development with DOT-Arc. “We were working on it because we are active business owners in the area. We really wanted to come at it from a place of what can be done as an idea.”

Some of that space is built within the large parking podium that’s visible in renderings along West Temple and Richards Street. Lee said the parking design reflects the assumption at the time that the concept would have to incorporate the large amount of parking for attendees at Bees games.

West Temple would still be available to operate as a festival street, as envisioned by the Ballpark master plan.

What about the stadium? 

The stadium in Lee’s concept remains in flux depending on community feedback.

As it was working on a conceptual plan before the relocation announcement by the Millers, the DOT-Arc team designed a fresh look for the stadium.

After the announcement, Lee’s team suggested converting the stadium into an Esports arena, possibly with components that leave it in play as a possible venue for the Olympics, should the city’s bid for the games be successful.

Other options could include creating a Major League Baseball stadium (another big unknown for now), or a completely different facility based on community feedback.

Lee said he welcomed feedback on his team’s concepts.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.