New designs for 2-structure apartment project in south Downtown hoping to finesse ground-floor activation requirements

Building Salt Lake is the leading source of commercial real estate news in Utah. Sign up to get our free emails in your inbox. Get access to the site’s paid features by becoming a Member today.

Developers are proposing that if you hang art on the walls of a leasing office, you can call it an art gallery. 

It matters because one of those uses is legal, and the other one isn’t–not allowed in new construction to be ground-floor and street-facing in the D-2 zone.

The Elliott North and South are proposed in south Downtown close to Central 9th, on 800 South between Main Street and West Temple, adjacent to Richards Street (~50 W).

We reviewed the Boyer Company’s first submission in October, which had the parking structure walls of both buildings fronting Richards, not appearing to meet the city’s ground floor activation requirements found in Chapter 21A.37.060. 

They didn’t, and designers from AO Architects have since revised plans to put live-work units (“affordable artists’ studios”) along Richards in both buildings, claiming to meet the D-2 zone’s “70% ground-floor use + 20% visual interest” standard. Other details of the project remain the same.

Let’s take a look at the updated plans and how they measure up. 

Modifications to requirements

Applicants are asking for both design review and planned development approval on both buildings, Elliott North on 800 South (283 units, predominantly studios and 1BRs) and Elliott South on Richards (62 units, equally split between 1- and 2BRs).

The developer’s application calls out two requests for modifications: relief from a front setback for ground-floor residential units, and an allowance to build a 9- instead of a 10-foot sidewalk.

But we noticed three other modifications in design standards needed by the project but not requested in the application:

  1. Facade length: 200’ maximum in code. Elliott South’s facade is 143’ along Richards, Elliott North’s is 360’ on Richards. Modification not requested in the application. 
  2. Depth of first-floor “active uses”: Artist apartments and workspaces in both buildings along Richards is only 15’ deep. Requirement is 25’. Modification not requested in application. 
  3. First-floor, street-facing glazing requirements for Elliott South on the west side of Richards Street. There, designers have placed 2 live-work units, the parking garage ingress and egress, and two exit stairways fronting Richards. Developers explain, “The porosity and transparency of the ground floor along Richards Street, although reduced below the 60% mandated by code to allow privacy for the residential uses along it, aspires to make up for it by providing a rich experience of art installations”

Leasing office/flex space/art gallery – active use?

The ground floor of Elliott North along 800 South, initial plans showed a 1400 SF leasing office and 1800 SF of retail. Does this meet the active uses requirement of 70 or 80 percent of the street-facing facade?

To finesse conformity of the requirements for Elliott North, developers propose “1,800 square feet of double-height retail space and 1,400 square feet of a publicly accessible flex space/ art gallery space that doubles up as the area for prospective future residents to interact with on-site leasing agents”

On Richards Street, the applicant is also counting “flex-space” as an active use. There, five live-work units and a flex-space are employed to fulfill the ground-floor activation requirements.

What about planned development requirements?

Do the two buildings meet the criteria for a planned development? The city requires projects to meet one of six criteria to apply as a planned development, and the applicant highlights the project’s contribution to one of them, mobility. 

To meet the mobility criterion, applicants point to their plans to build a 15’ east-west walkway on the south edge of the project, which is already required in city code.

Second, they tout that their tenants will take transit, given that the project is close to TRAX. The applicant’s narrative states that the Elliott “is strategically positioned within a 0.3-mile radius of existing TRAX lines and stations located along 200 West, encouraging residents to adopt walking, biking, and public transit as their primary modes of transportation in lieu of relying on automobiles.”

Not sure where the “encouraging” is coming from–the project provides 1.2 parking stalls per unit, with the grand majority being studios and 1 BRs. That ample parking and lack of ground-floor space for businesses servicing tenants and a growing south Downtown-Central 9th population may encourage residents to drive pretty much everywhere.

According to city records, the project is in the pre-submittal stage, still months away from its public Open House and Planning Commission review. 

Email Luke Garrott

Interested in seeing where developers are proposing and building new apartments in Salt Lake, or just want to support a local source of news on what’s happening in your neighborhood? Subscribe to Building Salt Lake.

Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.