Planning Commission approves new rental townhomes on Highland Drive

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The Highland Park neighborhood in broader Sugar House will see the construction of more townhomes along Highland Drive under a proposal the Planning Commission unanimously approved last month.

Located at 2903 S. Highland Drive, the new proposal passed design review and planned development in late October. This application is for two buildings consisting of 22 rental townhomes. 

Designed by Axis Architects, Highland Row would feature rear-loaded townhomes from a new driveway off of Highland Drive. The design is a slot home style, with minimal engagement of Highland Drive. One building will front Zenith Avenue to the south. 

Planned view from Highland Drive

The site currently has an old commercial building. 

The 22 townhomes will feature three different floor plans, with some featuring one-car garages, others tandem two-car garages, and one with a standard double-car garage. This means there are 34 parking spaces for the 22 units. The units along Highland Drive will also have their front door entries facing the street. 

While many townhome projects are focused on for sale and promoting home ownership, zoning restrictions and the ease of selling a single housing product instead of individual units still make it easier to build rental townhomes in many districts that allow multi-family but not single-family attached. 

Axis is proposing rental townhomes that can be built and sold into an investor’s portfolio, rather than to individual buyers.

The townhomes required a public meeting due to the total building sizes, going over the gross floor area limit, due to their height, to accommodate rooftops on some units, and the distance of the garbage to the neighboring property.

Ten units along Highland Drive would have rooftop decks, and the required parapet walls would raise the building 3’ over the height limit. Matthew Pockrus, with Axis, pointed out that the buildings will be recessed up to two feet into the ground to make them appear shorter and even along Zenith Avenue.  

Commissioner Amy Barry asked if more could be done with the Highland Drive facade, as it “lacks large windows and interesting views.” City staff pointed out that the developer had already added windows to the current facade since the original application had it as a blank wall.

There is some question as to when these will be built as it is similar to many projects by Axis throughout the city. While they received approval, the project may be sold with entitlements as with other projects by Axis

While this project wants to address more multifamily options in the neighborhood, the Community Business Zone allows multifamily, but not single-family attached. A new proposal made by the development community could change this and may make projects like this more likely to be for sale rather than for rent.

3-D elevations

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Email Zeke Peters

Posted by Zeke Peters

Zeke Peters is a dual-masters student at the University of Utah studying Urban Planning and Public Administration. He works as a planner and designer in Salt Lake City. He currently resides in downtown Salt Lake and is from Austin, Minnesota, the birthplace of SPAM.