A series of parcels covering 100 acres on the west side owned by the power company have for decades set the tone for this area of Salt Lake City.
Industrial and institutional uses, separated from single-family suburban-style development, too far west to be included in the original Plat of Zion grid, insured that West North Temple Street from Downtown to the Airport was auto-dependent and devoid of urban energy.
Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), the division of Pacificorp that services Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, along with city planners are moving closer to transforming that legacy into something completely different.
It’s a story that Building Salt Lake has been following closely. RMP’s development consultant and architecture firm held a neighborhood open house in early December that revealed key elements of the project, both of its first phase and full-site master plan, that the public has not before seen.
Latest project elements
The first steps in the massive project, between the Jordan River and Redwood Road, North Temple and 200 South, surfaced with a 5.5-acre rezoning proposal submitted to the city in May and advanced by the Planning Commission in September. It seeks the most intense zone in the transit station area portfolio, TSA-UC-C. Giv Communities, representing RMP, expects the proposal to get City Council consideration in early 2023.
Those properties, at 1219, 1223, 1275, and 1407 W. North Temple, will make up the redevelopment’s first phase – or rather, the first part of Phase 1. The refined conceptual plans, revealed at the open house at Rose Park’s Day-Riverside Library, show the company’s new headquarters building, a new Essential Services building to serve the public, and a parking garage.
Such elements may not race the pulse of apartment-watchers. But wait – the developers have brought in Cushman & Wakefield to solicit proposals for a residential (and possibly commercial) component that will wrap the parking garage and front North Temple just to the east of the state liquor store. Project leaders are no longer talking about a need to move the store owned and managed by Utah’s Department of Alcohol Services.
Giv Communities’ Melissa Jensen told us that RMP has a daily demand for 500-600 parking stalls. The size of the residential component will depend on the chosen developer, she added, but they expect 100-250 dwelling units, which will increase the size of the shared parking structure.
Images courtesy RMP / FFKR Architects / Giv Communities.
The project hopes to break ground in late Spring 2023 on this phase, informally called “Phase 1.1” by representatives of FFKR Architects at the open house.
The first stage of groundbreaking will be environmental remediation. Developers are currently working on those plans with the Utah DEQ.
“There’s a century-plus of different contaminants on the property, even before Rocky Mountain Power took ownership of it,” Susie Petheram, Senior Associate at FFKR Architects, stated at the open house.
Those are fairly serious in some areas, noted Brandon Francom, also with FFKR, who added that “RMP is owning the cleanup of this site. They could have put their HQ on the least contaminated part of the site, but they put it where they could own that, and be responsible to the community.”
Improved river access, riparian restoration, transit hub?
At North Temple and the Jordan River, Rocky Mountain Power has established on its property the Gadsby Trailhead, which includes landscaping, a parking lot, a footbridge across the river, and a boat launch.
City planners are keen on extending that public access all the way to 200 South, where the city’s Fisher Mansion sits (on the opposite bank). The city’s recently-completed parks and public lands master plan, Reimagine Nature, devotes a chapter to the river.
Planning Director Nick Norris told Building Salt Lake that “The primary focus for the western bank of the Jordan River is to expand public access to the area that has been closed off and inaccessible for decades.”
He added, “Reimagine nature includes a specific action item to work with property owners along this stretch of river to revive the river between 200 South and North Temple.”
Another point of collaboration with the city that developers point to is the establishing of an intermodal transit hub on the property.
Full-site master plan
Providing those details will need to wait until developers generate a master plan for the full 100-acre site. They hope to have a conceptual draft ready for public consumption by ground breaking on the headquarters (Phase 1.1) this Spring.
According to materials provided at the open house, the site’s master plan “will be informed by sustainable principles, mixed use best practices, and pedestrian focused spaces.”
Susie Petheram of FFKR noted that the 2010 North Temple Boulevard Plan didn’t consider the possibility of the RMP property being redeveloped. The company’s new master plan will be “like North Temple Boulevard Plan Plus.”
The power company only needs the currently-designated northeastern corner of the 100-acre property for its campus. Which means that with the exception of two substations that will remain and the Gadsby power plant (likely to be decommissioned in 2032), the size of the canvas on which to imagine development is substantial. And in an urban environment, transit-adjacent and so close to downtown – truly unique.
A new zone?
Part of the full-site master plan will be a proposal to create a new zoning district.
GIv’s Director, Chris Parker, head consultant on the project, has to be relishing the opportunity to improve on the city’s TSA zones. He has spoken to us in broad terms about an “eco-zone” that aims to allow increasing height, reducing building footprints, and calculating densities on a block-scale instead of by the parcel. This would enable more diversity in urban form as well as flexibility in how public amenities are designed and provided.
Implicit in the proposal for a new zoning district is a critique of the current TSA design standards and guidelines. The current development pattern lacks not only inviting public spaces, but retail spaces, architectural diversity, and street-level activation.
SLC Planning Director Nick Norris told us that “Our goal is that the framework and process for a developing a regulatory plan for the RMP campus can easily also be carried over to the large tracts of land on the north side of North Temple when that land owner decides to redevelop their property.”
Another challenge for a large master-planned project like RMP’s will likely be establishing connections to surrounding neighborhoods and the larger city. The Hardware District at the North Temple bridge transfer station has become an amenity-rich enclave which offers little reason for people outside the development to interact with it.
FFKR’s Brandon Francom mentioned that they were looking at the Hardware District as an example not to follow.
An easy answer to the connection challenge would be to (re)establish the city’s grid within the development. It would not only connect with the rest of the city but provide designers the option to divide the 10-acre blocks into a finer-grained pattern that would facilitate a pedestrian-scale—one of their stated goals.
Yet the temptation to design with curvy streets seems also high, and is already manifesting in the HQ phase of the development.
FFKR’s Petheram told us “we are re-introducing a grid of sorts, but we’re looking to create a finer-grained grid. But I think there is definitely the intent to honor the macro-grid [of the city].”
She drew attention to 1300 West and 1460 West, currently full-access points to the site that will be maintained. From the west, South Temple will become the main entry. “It’s not likely that South Temple will connect to the east over the river,” she noted.
Streets and parks – public or private?
We asked Planning Director Norris about the city’s interest in the development, including the issue of the city’s grid and the ownership of streets and other places of public access.
“We do think a human scaled street grid and public space is necessary for the campus to redevelop appropriately and be successful. We are pushing RMP to develop a plan for the campus so we have a better idea of the pros and cons of public vs private streets and spaces” Norris responded.
FFKR’s Petheram, when queried whether the streets and parks in the development would be public, answered, “we’re working that out right now.”
“Nothing right now is public,” she stated, noting that in the HQ phase RMP “wants to keep it more private because of sensitive areas around their campus, needing to close them down in an emergency situation.”
“But the other areas could potentially become public,” she countered.” “It may be a matter of what streets Salt Lake City wants to take on.”
The latest ideas about phasing
The developers expect to start construction in Spring/Summer 2023 on the HQ phase. That likely means that a developer for the residential wrap and street frontage on North Temple will be chosen soon.
They also aspire to gather enough input from stakeholders, the community, and the city council to have a draft master plan for the full site ready by the time of groundbreaking on the HQ phase. That plan will then enter the formal city process for approval.
After that plan is worked over and approved, RMP’s team will then develop an application for a Planned Development process with the city. That agreement will be the blueprint for development for 10 years or more, until the site is completed.
RMP plans on long-term leasing the ground under new buildings, instead of offering them for sale.
FFKR representatives told us that the North Temple frontage, and continuing west, will be the first properties to be offered to developers – what is informally being called Phase 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5.
Afterwards, the north side of South Temple will be built out in Phase 2. Then, after 2032 and the closing of the Gadsby power plant, Phase 3 will begin south of South Temple and complete the redevelopment of the 100-acre site.
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