Skyscrapers, affordability, Downtown expansion: Here are the stories that interested Building Salt Lake readers most in 2021

We brought you trend stories about the incoming boom of residential towers in Downtown Salt Lake City. The changing look and feel of the city’s urban core. The buildings lost and the ongoing tension around preserving city history while adding density with new buildings and trying to remain somewhat affordable.

Looking at the numbers, there is tremendous interest among Building Salt Lake readers in stories about the look and feel of our capital city’s Downtown.

There was interest in a citizen-led plan to underground railroad tracks along 600 West and add hundreds of acres of developable land west of Downtown.

Each story reflects an interest in the changes that are happening rapidly in our city, so we wanted to provide a recap of our most-read stories from 2021.

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1. Salt Lake City is having a skyscraper boom. Here’s the next one on the way.

Feb. 18, 2021

A new tower on the northeast corner of 300 South 200 East would replace a one-story building and local retailers with a 31-story residential building. Rendering courtesy of Worthington.

Retailers in the existing two-story building on the northeast corner of 200 East 300 South were told they needed to move by summer 2021 to make way for demolition of their building.

The details about what would replace the long-time space for local businesses became known in February.

The tower that will replace the now-demolished Broadway Place will be 31 stories tall. It will bring 359 residential units to the area on 26 of the 31 stories, leaving 5,800 square feet of space for ground-floor retail and 359 parking stalls on four stories above ground.

2. In pictures: Salt Lake City’s Downtown is quickly moving south.

Feb. 24, 2021

Downtown Salt Lake City looking north from 700 S. Main Street. Photo by Taylor Anderson.

The year saw a flurry of activity in the Downtown core. But a string of development south of Downtown marked a definite shift in the city’s built environment.

Several mid-rise buildings took shape just south of 600 South, and more are on their way in 2022.

Seven O2 Main: A five-story, 239 rental housing units by PEG Development.

650 S Main: A 10-story, 320,000-square-foot office project by the Patrinely Group.

6th and Main: A seven-story, 170-unit luxury rental project by Lowe Property Group.

Sears Block (The Jetty): an 11-story building on the parcel fronting 800 South.

3. Builders share details on the building that will replace the historic Utah Theater

Jan. 12, 2021

After more than a year of uncertainty with what would replace the historic theater at 144 S. Main St., developers released some details

Hines plans to add 400 apartments in a 31-story building that’s just shy of 400 feet tall. The group had previously released only conceptual drawings showing a 30-story tower with 300 units. The new documents, submitted as a design review application for permission to build, provide many more details about what could be coming to the 100 South block of Main Street. 

The apartments will include studios plus one- and two-bedroom units. Five penthouse suites will exist on the 31st floor.

After a tumultuous year of advocates working to save the historic, if rundown, theater by getting it designated as a local and national historic landmark, the city conveyed the property to Hines toward the end of 2021. Demolition is likely to follow soon.

4. Salt Lake City may be ‘too far gone’ to become affordable again

Aug. 20, 2021

A house between two newer apartment buildings in Salt Lake City’s Central 9th neighborhood. The city is currently locked in a debate over updating its RMF-30 zoning elsewhere in town, which could lead to more historic homes being torn down and replaced with low-density multi-family homes.

The days of inexpensive rent and housing may be forever gone from Utah’s capital, and even working through a backlog of policies may never bring it back.

The balance between urban infill, historic preservation and housing affordability may be out of whack, and recent sustained demand for housing has likely permanently priced people out of living in Salt Lake City. 

Updates to rules for development could threaten swaths of older homes that add historic character while also adding much-needed housing at a lower price point.

That was the discussion among a Building Salt Lake panel that included a developer, an architect and a preservationist discussing infill, gentrification, historic preservation and affordability, all central to Salt Lake City’s ongoing building boom.

5. Utah’s 10th In-N-Out Burger is was coming to State Street and 21st South

Feb. 22, 2021

Rendering of In-N-Out Burger. The next Utah location will be at 21st South and State Street. Image courtesy In-N-Out.

In February, we brought you the news that California-based fast food restaurant In-N-Out planned to locate its 10th Utah location at the south end of the capital city.

Several months later, it appears In-N-Out isn’t on the way. The property at 61 E. 2100 S. is currently listed for lease by Colliers, and there have been no design review hearings on the proposed burger joint.

That may be a bullet dodged. We had noted that, with two extremely popular and auto-centric fast food restaurants planned within a block of each other off State Street, we could be looking at a carmageddon.

In-N-Out representatives haven’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

6. The Rio Grande Plan, updated: Putting trains underground in Depot and Granary

Sept. 27, 2021

The Rio Grande Plan’s reimagining of the Depot District cleared of rails and the Rio Grande Depot revived as a transit center. Image courtesy Christian Lenhart and Cameron Blakely.

Designers of a plan to reinvigorate train transport, remove barriers between Downtown and the city’s west side and free up hundreds of acres to redevelopment was updated and brought to important stakeholders in 2021.

Its latest iteration is an impressive mix of graphic and urban design, transportation engineering and railroad knowledge. 

The project’s main components include:

  • Relocating all north-south train tracks between 900 S and 100 S in a below-grade structure called a ‘train box.’
  • Relocating all transit services from the current Salt Lake Central Station at 600 W and 300 S to the historic Rio Grande Depot at 450 W and 300 S.
  • Permanently removing railroad crossings that block west-east flow in and near Downtown: 200 S and 650 W, 800 S and 650 W, and 900 S and 650 W. 
  • Demolishing the 400 S viaduct, liberating nearly 2000 linear ft of street frontage – 2 1/2 blocks on each side of the resurfaced street.
  • Opening up 52 acres of land from former railroad usage.
  • Opening up more than 150 additional acres of privately-owned land for redevelopment.

The plan’s authors found interested supporters at City Hall. This will be an important ongoing story in the new year.

7. Another office highrise comes to Downtown’s Main Street

May 31, 2021

The Sundial Tower, Downtown’s latest office highrise, to stand at 23 stories at 447 South Main. Rendering from the west, courtesy Pickard Chilton Architects, JLL and Hines.

In the same month their first quarter 2021 commercial real estate report on Salt Lake City cites a bloated Class A office market –  with high vacancies, rising subleases, stabilized rents, and increasing concessions to tenants – JLL investors announced their partnership with Hines development to build a new office tower in Downtown Salt Lake City.

The new Sundial Tower, at 447 South Main, will reach 23 stories and offer 425,000 sf of Class A office space. 

Salt Lake’s latest architectural statement will sit south of the mid-century modern First Security Tower (now Ken Garff) and north of the vacant lot that abuts the rear of District Attorney’s building to the west that fronts 500 South. It boasts a location immediately adjacent to the Courthouse Trax Station.

8. We now know what will replace Salt Lake City’s former homeless shelter Downtown

April 13, 2021

We broke the news in February that the state of Utah had sold the 1.17-acre property to a local developer after forcing the shelter’s closure, buying the building from the nonprofit that operated it and then tearing it down.

Then we broke the news that on what will mark the next chapter for 210 S. Rio Grande: a seven-story, 206-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail space.

The building will include five stories of wood construction over a two-story podium. 

Developers said they hoped to include about 60 apartments, or more than a quarter of the new units, affordable for people earning between 60–80% median income.

The developers — dbURBAN Communities and Hamilton Partners — aren’t asking the city for zoning changes that would slow the incoming mixed-use project. They said they expected to break ground fall 2021 if they received approval from the city.

They pulled a building permit in the fall and last week sought permission to power the work trailers on site. Construction will be underway any day.

9. Mass timber coming to SLC? New plans revealed for building next to the U.

May 10, 2021

In May, we had the news that a Chicago-based developer planned to bring a 10-12 story mass timber building to the northwest corner of University Street (1350 E) and 300 South.

The project would likely be mixed-use and all studio apartments, acting as one of few new substantial housing developments well-suited to serve students at the University of Utah.

It is currently zoned RMF-30 and R-2. It would need a zoning change to TSA station area core to build to 125 ft.

It is also in the University Local Historic District, which largely prevents the demolition of “contributing structures.” 

There is currently no transit station area zoning around the Stadium Trax station, and there has been no progress on a rezone that would make this proposal work. Representatives of the idea didn’t respond to a request for comment.

10. New residential highrise coming to Downtown’s West Temple.

April 26, 2021

The 28-story mixed-use South West Temple project will reside at 370 S West Temple. Federal Courthouse, right. Image courtesy Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects.

Just as their Exchange Project at Library Square shakes off its construction dust and begins to open, Domain Companies announced this year a $230 million mixed-use project for a key corner in Downtown. 

According to the latest documents filed in November, Domain would move forward with two buildings on the site: a 26-story residential tower and an 11-story hotel.

That would bring space for hundreds more units Downtown, plus another hotel two blocks south of the incoming convention center hotel.

Initial conversations showed South West Temple would bring 28 stories and house 340 residential units, 58,000 square feet of office and/or a boutique hotel. At street level it would offer 6,200 square feet of retail space.

Located at 370 S West Temple, the site sits on D-1 zoning, which allows up to 375 feet on corners and higher with design review.

Local readers would know the site from Gracie’s Gastropub, to the north (left-center in the aerial photo below). Currently the site is a vacant lot. Across West Temple to the east sits the Federal Courthouse.

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 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.