High material costs delay the construction of new, affordable townhomes in Liberty Wells

A builder looking to build missing middle for-sale housing on a now-vacant lot in Liberty Wells has been stalled by the high cost of materials caused in part by the pandemic.

Peter Corroon, the developer behind the seven-unit townhome project in the city’s Liberty Wells neighborhood, tells us his firm hasn’t yet moved ahead with his project after years of work due to “crazy high” construction costs.

That’s despite his successful effort at rezoning the third-acre property at 400 E. Cleveland (1430 South) to Form-Based Urban Neighborhood 1 (FB-UN1), which allows for more density.

The issue represents a rare headwind that’s been able to slow down an otherwise booming commercial real estate market in the region. 

“We went through a Zoning change, Planned Development process, and lot split so that we can build seven units on the parcel,” Corroon told us. “We are at the point where we can pull a permit, but the construction costs are crazy high. We have been hesitant to move forward.”

Corroon, the former Salt Lake County mayor, basically reached the finish line after years of work to persuade the Planning Commission and City Council to rezone the property before stalling out.

The effort faced some opposition among immediate neighbors, though ultimately it wasn’t a big lift. This part of the neighborhood is within a large swath of RMF-35 zoning, or mid-density residential zoning. There are dozens of multi-family units — from duplexes to eight-plexes — within a Frisbee’s throw of the property.

Still, given the amount of time it takes for a developer to work their way through the process, it is surprising for any land to be left vacant for so long after a successful rezone.

Part of the issue, Corroon said, is that he’s making a concerted effort to keep the project affordable.

Cleveland Court Project Details

Number of homes: 7

Bedrooms/home: One 1-bedroom; Four 2-bed/2-bath; Two 3-bed/2-bath

Parking/home: 3-bedroom: Two garage spaces; 2-bedroom: One garage space; 1-bedroom: One space

Anyone who’s taken on a home project in the past year knows the price of just about any type of wood has been astronomically high.

Competitive prices for skilled labor and supply chain issues for just about any other material has also gummed up projects for many.

That means builders can either stall projects and hope that prices fall, or they can attempt to recoup costs with higher home prices.

The median cost of a home in Salt Lake City is now $569,923, according to estimates from Zillow.

Cleveland Court Construction Details

Owner: Sentry Financial

Architect: CRSA 

Engineer: Weber Engineering Collective

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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.