Planning Commision approves pedestrain-friendly development near Liberty Park

Google map view of the current structure at 705 East 900 South.
Google map view of the current structure at 705 East 900 South.

The immediate vicinity surrounding the 80-acre Liberty Park is long overdue for some new development.  Salt Lake City’s second largest park is two city blocks wide and four city blocks long, providing multiple pedestrian access points into the park, yet most development surrounding the park poorly engages at the street level.

Development facing a heavily used city park should be pedestrian orientated as parks are hubs for pedestrian activity.

The Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved zoning variances for a proposed two-story mixed-use office/retail building at 705 East 900 South, diagonally across from the northeast entrance to Liberty Park,  that will allow the developer to build a more urban and pedestrian-friendly development than current zoning allowed.

The developer petitioned the commission for relaxed height and setback restrictions.

The parcel is zoned Small Neighborhood Business (SNB) which allows for a maximum height of 20 feet for a flat-roofed structure and front yard setbacks that match nearby development, which is this case consists of single-family detached homes.  The average front yard setbacks on 900 South is around 18 feet and just over 27 feet along 700 East.

The property will be pushed closer to the intersection of 700 East and 900 South, thanks to approved variances, the new building will have a height of 25 feet and front yard setbacks of 10 feet from the sidewalk along 700 East and an eight-foot setback on 900 South.

The current building on the parcel is vacant and poorly interacts with the street, with the building’s main entrance facing a surface parking lot that takes up most of the lot. The one-story building will be demolished to make way for the new development.

According to senior planner Lex Traughber, “The corner warrants a structure at this location to help to frame the street and create a presence given the magnitude of the intersection.”

The current structure on the site has no street presence and is very underwhelming.

According to planning documents, city planners support the project’s reduced setbacks because, “it better frames the street, creates enclosure, highlights active uses at the street level, provides a physical noise buffer between passing vehicles and adjacent residential homes and promotes pedestrian and passing vehicular interest.”

The project will have a modern design that city planners feel will complement the surrounding area.  The proposed development will be 7,300 square feet, better maximize lot space and better activate the intersection at the street level with entrances facing the sidewalk and large street-facing windows.  The development will help the make the northeast entrance into Liberty Park more pedestrian friendly and vibrant.

Site plan for the 705 East 900 South mixed used development.
Site plan for the 705 East 900 South mixed used development.
Renderings of the 705 East 900 South mixed-use development.
Renderings of the 705 East 900 South mixed-use development.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at