Intermountain seeks to rezone Sears Block for ‘urban hospital’

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A law firm representing Intermountain filed paperwork this morning asking the city to rezone its 9 acres of land in the center of Salt Lake City to build a new hospital.

The rezone request, from Downtown Support District (D-2) to Central Business District (D-1), would allow the firm to build what it’s calling a “downtown, urban hospital.”

The request also seeks to amend the zoning itself to allow hospitals as a permitted use, meaning Intermountain could build a new hospital without needing further permission from the Planning Commission or City Council if the requests are approved.

“The purpose of these proposed amendments is to allow for the redevelopment of the majority of the Sears block to accommodate a new, downtown, urban hospital,” representatives from the law firm Kirton McConkie, wrote.

Building Salt Lake has previously reported that members of Intermountain staff were told by administrators about intentions to build a mid-sized hospital on the site. The Sears Block sits between 700 South and 800 South, State Street and Main Street.

What hasn’t been clear is whether Intermountain’s new Salt Lake City hospital would share a similar form to its suburban-style medical campus in Murray and Provo. 

The firm still hasn’t shared details for its plans in Salt Lake City, including what it intends to do with its aging medical campus at LDS Hospital in the Upper Avenues.

But Intermountain representatives repeatedly stressed the urban nature of the incoming hospital. They also pointed to the Downtown Plan as a guide for the type of development they would bring forward.

The Downtown Plan notes that buildings in the South State section — from 600 South to 900 South — will be close to the street, include storefronts for passersby and parking to the side or rear of buildings.

South State is supposed to be walkable, provide housing options and generally embrace the somewhat edgy nature of the area.

“While Intermountain has not created any formal or conceptual plans for the Property, the hospital use would be akin to many urban hospitals across the country,” Kirton McConkie representatives wrote. “The project would create and serve as an anchor and bookend on the south end of downtown. 

The Sears Block is just a block outside existing D-1 zoning, which allows for taller buildings.

Intermountain provided some hints about the scale of its eventual facility, comparing it to the height of the Grand America hotel and several new office and apartment projects nearby.

“The D-1 zone will allow Intermountain the flexibility in building height while also not being out of character for the area with the Grand America being two blocks away, and the new multi-story office/residential projects built on 600 South and Main Street, 700 South Main Street, and 600 South State Street.”

Intermountain also suggested D-1 zoning would allow it to build a more walkable city block. As with everything in this project, it’s still not clear whether that means breaking the block into smaller parcels with space for the public to traverse.

“The D-1 zone’s building height and density flexibility will also help Intermountain in working with the City to design a project that better incorporates permeability and walkability of the Property that would not otherwise be possible given the small area of the Property compared to the level of services Intermountain desires to include on the Property.”

Among the other changes the medical provider wants to make within the D-1 zone:

  • Ambulance service indoor: Permitted
  • Ambulance service outdoor: Permitted
  • Hospital, including accessory lodging facility: Permitted
  • Retail, sales and service accessory use when located within a principal building and operated primarily for the convenience of employees: Permitted

A heliport is a conditional use within the D-1 zone. As are a handful of other uses that may be part of the eventual development of the block.

Its days as the ‘Sears Block’ are shrinking. Intermountain is moving full-throttle ahead with this project and will likely find a willing audience at City Hall.

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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.