Plan for big townhome project on Jordan River draws fire online – read the architect’s responses

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A large townhome development at 2100 South and the Jordan River recently submitted to the planning department proposes 231 townhomes in an area currently dominated by light industrial, institutional, and recreational (Glendale Golf Course) uses.

At 1176 West 2100 South, the unique site – bordered on three sides by the Jordan River, the Surplus Canal, and 2100 South—sits on 6.64 acres and General Commercial (CG) zoning. Directly to the south across 2100 is the Intermountain Farmers Association (IFA) store.

CG zoning requires 10’ setbacks and limits height to 60’. In addition, the city’s riparian overlay zone requires a no-build buffer of 50’ from the two waterways.

Images courtesy di’velept design.

Di’velept Design, a Building Salt Lake sponsor, submitted the application that proposes 231 townhome units that are all identical. The 1.5 bedroom, 1 bath units will provide 1145 sf of living space and one parking stall each. CG zoning for attached single-family and townhome projects requires 1 parking space per unit.

The developer, who is yet unknown, is preparing the option to sell the units. A preliminary application for condominium plats was submitted by the applicant.

Design comes under fire

Di’velept’s design for the project attracted an unusually heavy barrage of criticism on a subreddit dedicated to local development geeks, r/DevelopmentSLC.

Very pro-housing and usually forgiving of average design, the comment section was set alight with critique.

“Dystopian copy-paste houseboxes.” “Storage units.” “Is this the new prison?”

A poster named Crete noted, “I would accidentally walk into the wrong unit drunk about 50% of my nights out. I feel a little bad for the architect who had to draw this according to the developer’s wishes…and I say that having been that architect before.”

The lack of amenities and open space was also pointed out.

Designer’s response

We asked Jarod Hall, owner and architect at di’velept, about the constraints of the site, the project, and some of the criticism.

He first emphasized the economic realities of projects—the inescapable tension between “design and affordability.”

Hall explained, “This project is in an area that has naturally lower rent or sales price and so therefore the design needs to be simplified. Building articulation costs money and ultimately if there isn’t enough projected profit for a bank to be comfortable giving a loan on the project then projects don’t happen.”

Further defending the exterior design elements, he argued “often the primary difference between charming and dystopian is having the project built for a decade or two. Most of the streets in downtown Philly are full of the exact same (rather plain) townhouse, but because they have been around for a long time they are looked at as charming.”

On the topic of amenities and green space, it’s clear that the site is uniquely located adjacent to some major public assets—the Jordan River Trail and Glendale Golf Course.

Hall pushed back at criticism that the project doesn’t provide very many amenities or open space. Invoking civic principles, he stated:

“The project is providing quite a large amount of green space right along the river as well as a small amenity building and pool. To me this fascination with privatized amenities is not good for cities. Having public parks and community rec centers binds a community together much better than every new project having its own private amenities.” 

The project is seeking planned development approval from the Planning Commission, which is unlikely to schedule it before the end of the year.

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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.