Intermountain unveils plans for new urban hospital at Sears Block

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After more than a year of public silence, Intermountain Health unveiled conceptual renderings that show its plans for a series of buildings, open space, parking and reserved taco truck space that would make up what it considers an urban hospital campus.

The renderings offer the first glimpse at what would be a centrally located hospital on what is known as the Sears Block, between 700 and 800 South, Main Street to State Street.

The plans show that IHC would build towers that are 12 stories, each floor likely at least 16 feet tall, that center on 800 South and on Main Street. That would put the hospital at around 200 feet tall, which explains why Intermountain has asked the city to rezone the property.

The renderings show that IHC wants to radically change Main Street to service the 1,750 parking stalls it hopes to build on the west side of Main Street.

That plan apparently includes tearing into Main Street, currently a pedestrian- and bike-friendly street leading into the heart of Downtown, to create a ramp to access a more than 10-story parking structure.

The concept shows a bridge over Main Street connecting the parking structure on the west side of Main with the hospital on the east.

IHC is asking the City Council to rezone the property to Downtown-1 (D1) zoning, the city’s most urban zone.

After unveiling it to the council on Tuesday, several members expressed their disappointment, suggesting the proposal may have a long way to go.

“I think that we asked you for a mile and we got a couple inches,” said councilman Alejandro Puy after first seeing the renderings. “I see a suburban hospital with less grass, less surface parking.”

The concepts show that Intermountain intends to activate the portions of the hospital fronting State and Main streets by as much as 70 percent. Along 700 South and 800 South, Intermountain would activate its buildings by no more than 50 percent.

Activation would include things like hospital admission areas and receptions, gift shops, office lobbies, conference centers, coffee shops and pharmacies, according to the plans.

At the center of the block, Intermountain shows the concept of a landscaped open space accessed by mid-block walkways on Main or State streets.

Councilman Darin Mano told Building Salt Lake after the hearing that the open space was enticing, given the Downtown area is severely underserved by parks. But he said he was leaning toward voting against the rezone request given the plan’s lack of street level activation.

“The updated drawings we received today don’t satisfy my concerns for street activation and as such I lean toward voting against the rezone,” Mano said. “The biggest public benefit I see in their current proposal is publicly accessible open space in a part of the city that greatly lacks public park space.”

The presentation did make at least one mention that will be welcome news to many in the Salt Lake area: Intermountain noted that one of the street activation opportunities includes “providing a space on the site for the current thriving taco truck and other food trucks.”

Conceptual rendering showing a new parking ramp in the center of Main Street near 750 South.

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.