Plan for wholesale changes for Ballpark makes first stop at Planning Commission

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Salt Lake City is considering sweeping zoning changes in the Ballpark in an attempt to breathe new life into an underserved neighborhood just south of Downtown.

In effect, the Ballpark Station Area Plan is a new master plan for a portion of the neighborhood that has seen ongoing interest from builders. The Planning Commission heard a presentation and discussed the plan at its meeting this week.

The neighborhood’s TRAX station would be better integrated into the neighborhood. Vacant surface parking lots surrounding the baseball stadium would be filled with housing and retail. The pedestrian experience along 1300 South — currently an abysmal experience despite high numbers of people walking along narrow sidewalks close to fast-moving cars – would be improved.

The changes would also modernize zoning and provide an updated plan for the neighborhood once approved by the City Council and zoning changes are made.

Among the big proposed ideas put forward by the plan:

  • Create a zone to support the ballpark itself and the Ballpark transit station.
  • Reconfigure the TRAX station for better connections in all directions.
  • Install a pedestrian crossing across 1300 South at 200 West TRAX
  • Improve 1300 South for pedestrians (but not people riding bikes).
  • Turn a portion of West Temple into a “festival street.”
  • Develop existing vacant parking lots that surround the ballpark.

Currently, people riding transit are expected to reach the north side of 1300 South either at West Temple or at 300 West — there is no street crossing in between. That doesn’t stop people from attempting to cross outside of the intersections. 

The plan calls for more frequent crossings, a change that would likely save lives.

The TRAX station would also be accessible from all directions, including 200 West to the north, where it’s currently blocked off. Planners alluded to changing it from its current suburban orientation — with a large surface parking lot and platform accessed from only one side — into an urban one that’s better integrated with the surrounding environment.

West Temple would also become what’s called a festival street that would be closed to motorists on gamedays and non-gamedays and programmed with music, food and crafts.

The map that, unless changed before it’s adopted, would guide wholesale zoning changes for a portion of the Ballpark neighborhood. Courtesy of the Ballpark Station Area Plan.

What about zoning? 

The plan identifies eight separate small areas within the neighborhood that will guide future zoning changes.

  • Central 9th Corridor Area: No change to existing plans.
  • State Street Corridor: State Street is in no one’s land. The city commissioned a study for major street changes that was shut down by the owner of the road, UDOT. The plan doesn’t address changes to State.
  • 300 West Transitional Area: No major changes. 
  • Medium Density Transitional Area: Between West Temple and TRAX (200 West) and south of 1400 South, the plan calls for medium density housing. The massive city public utilities site is identified as a potential future park and other community spaces (library, anyone?).
  • Main Street Area: The plan says don’t expect car dealerships north of 1300 South to turn over anytime soon. South of 1300 South should preserve the view from the ballpark. The plan suggests applying the car-dominant South State Street Overlay district zoning to the rest of Main Street, rather than rezoning it.
  • Neighborhood Areas: The area that was downzoned near West Temple and just west of Main Street. This inadvertently includes 1700 South, which already is filling up with medium- and high-density housing. 
  • Heart of the Neighborhood/Ballpark Station Entertainment Zone: Rezone so that it’s similar to transit station areas elsewhere, meaning higher density.
  • Jefferson Park Mixed-Use Area: Mix of uses and mixed scales of buildings, up to 5-7 stories along corridors and 2-3 stories on smaller streets.
A rendering of West Temple just south of 1300 South in its possible future as a festival street that’s closed to moving cars. Rendering courtesy of the Ballpark Station Area Plan.

1300 South and beyond

Commissioners continued to circle around a harsh reality that seems like it won’t be addressed as part of this effort.

Several said they’d like to access businesses on or near 1300 South by bike. But west of State Street, 1300 South turns into a five-lane car sewer, funneling high-speed traffic toward a connection with the interstate and with no space to safely ride a bike.

“One of the concerns with creating a designated bike route along 1300 South speaking with transportation is the amount of traffic along 1300 South,” Larsen, the city planner, said.

No one at the meeting could talk about the decision to define the plan’s boundaries. But one commissioner wondered why it would propose a new TRAX line at 1700 South while staying silent on changes in that area.

“I know 1700 South is on the southern end of this, but are there any planned street improvements for 1700 South?” asked Commissioner Mike Christiansen. “Especially given that there’s a proposed infill TRAX station for 1700 South.”

“I think given its low-traffic it would be ideal,” he added.

The plan was funded with money that required it to focus on the area surrounding the existing TRAX line on 1300 South.

1700 South is seeing more development pressure than 1300 South, yet only one side of the street was part of the plan.

“We’ve talked about a lack of plan south in the neighborhood,” Commissioner Amy Barry said.

It may be that there is more in store for Ballpark following this plan.

Planning Director Nick Norris alluded to two future plans to follow.

“We’ll be starting an update to the Central Community plan for the entire 300 West corridor,” Norris said. “That will actually start in the next 2-3 months.”

Email Taylor Anderson

Update: An original version of this story said 1300 South has four lanes of car traffic west of State Street. That section of the road actually has five lanes.

Building Salt Lake Members get access to exclusive site features, like our Salt Lake City Projects Map and Database, our Enhanced Search function and first dibs on future events. Consider becoming a member to Building Salt Lake today.

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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.