With a crane seemingly forever at half-mast, the fate of The Plaza at State Street, a mixed-use project in downtown Salt Lake, appeared doomed like previous Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake projects that had good plans but couldn’t secure financing. In July The SLC Blog reported that construction appeared to be back on after a few months of quiet at the site. The assessment was premature as work on the site again stalled until recently.
The needed financing has been secured and the construction crane is back up at the Plaza between 200 and 300 South on State Street. According Greg Walker, the lead of La Porte’s architectural team recently, construction should return to full activity by the end of this month.
At a visit to the site recently, the crane was running with a handful of construction workers on site. Over the summer rumors spread that the project was underwater and would possibly be retaken by the RDA.
The project’s developers, The La Porte Group, officially broke ground in May of 2012. Since then, construction has been on and off. Over two years later and the steel only rises to the third floor of what will eventually be 10-story building.
“The process has been super challenging,” said Walker. “Ben (Ben Logue the president of La Porte Group) is trying to do something different, Ben is taking a chance.”
The Plaza at State Street is different than the other type of residential projects under construction in the city. There are four large residential developments currently under construction within a few blocks from the plaza, those developments range between four to seven floors and are all wood-framed with stucco exteriors.
Securing financing had been an issue for the La Porte Group and was part of the reason construction stalled. In July, Logue brought on Walker and Jarod Hall as La Porte’s new architectural team and had them redesign each of the project’s 180 units.
“Every single unit had to be remodeled from floor to floor,” said Walker.
The duo altered the original floor plans to include more open space within each unit. Materials have been changed as well to give the units a more modern industrial loft look with concrete floors and exposed duct work.
The project includes a variety of residential units ranging from studios to four-bedroom apartments.
“Of the 180 units there are at least 40 different unit types,” said Hall.
Each different unit type requires its own floor plan. Of the 180 units, 136 will be income-restricted while the other 44 will be available at market rate. The project also includes ground floor retail, a reconstructed Rex Theater and a plaza with pedestrian connections from State Street to Floral and Edison Streets.
The area surrounding The Plaza at State Street is emerging as one of Salt Lake’s most vibrant arts and entertainment districts. Within a block of the project is the Broadway Theater cinema, the recently opened Copper Onion restaurant, the popular Beer Bar and Bar-X as well as other bars, restaurants and galleries.
“The synergy is changing,” said Hall.
The burgeoning area is being branded the Edison Quarter, named after the narrow street that breaks up the large block between 200 and South and 200 East and State Street.
The Edison Quarter is a block away from the City Creek Center and the under-construction Utah Performing Arts Center. What all three projects have in common, besides their downtown location, is that each project seeks to break up Salt Lake’s notoriously large blocks by enhancing mid-block connections and improving the pedestrian experience.
While the project’s delays have been discouraging, the fact that project is again moving forward is good news for downtown Salt Lake. A large mixed-use project that enhances the pedestrian experience and brings new residents will help make downtown a more vibrant place. The Plaza at State Street straddles emerging nightlife and cultural corridors along 200 and 300 South and has the opportunity to connect both, creating a vibrant district that complements City Creek and the Utah Performing Arts Center. Downtown Salt Lake is maturing but to achieve its full potential, developers will need to take risks and create something different that enhances downtown walk-ability and quality of life. Hopefully The Plaza at State Street will be a successful endeavor that encourages other developers to take risks and to create outside of the wood-framed stucco box.