SL County mayor hopes new DA offices boost downtown growth

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams digs up concrete during the groundbreaking for the new downtown DA office building. Photo by Isaac Riddle.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams digs up concrete during the groundbreaking for the new downtown DA office building. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

Salt Lake County District Attorney’s will soon have office space of their own. After decades of renting space in nearby offices, Salt Lake County officials broke ground Thursday morning on a new District Attorney building at 35 E. 500 South, directly west of the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse.

“Renting space is more expensive for us,” said Salt Lake County Mayor, Ben McAdams.  “This is better for our attorneys to do their jobs”

By building a new office instead of renting, McAdams estimates that the county will save $13 million over the life of the 20-year bond.

The project was designed by MHTN Architects and includes a five-story, 112,000 square-foot office building and a five-level parking garage with access points off Main Street and 500 South.  The office building will be built according to LEED Gold standards

“It fits uniquely into this downtown urban environment and compliments the building to the east,” said Peggy McDonough, president of MHTN Architects.

McDonough described the design of the DA office building as being a symbol of transparency. The building’s ground floor is intended to feel open with large glass glazing that allows pedestrians to see into the building.  The entire south side of the building will also have ground to ceiling windows that will bring in natural light and offer views of the Wasatch Mountains.

The adjacent parking structure will be tucked away in the middle of the block behind the DA building.

According to McAdams, the county chose the site because they wanted to take advantage of one of the “best TOD (Transportation Oriented Development) sites in the valley.”

The 400 South block of Main Street is dominated by surface parking, even though it is adjacent to one of the busiest TRAX stations in the city.  McAdams expects the DA office project to be a catalyst for the development of the surrounding blocks.

The new DA office building will occupy the eastern edge of the block, with the west side parcel reserved for  private development.  According to David Hart of MOCA, a development consultant firm that worked on the DA office project, the new office building has a minimal footprint to ensure plenty of room for private development that will provide tax revenue while adding density to the block.

The county is purposely building the DA offices mid-block and away from Main Street so that attorneys can be closer to the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse and that Main Street can be better utilized with more active uses.

The west side parcel includes about 100 feet of frontage on 500 South and the southern half of the block on Main Street.  The parcel can accommodate a highrise and parking garage.  Hart hopes any development includes ground floor retail that would active the 400 South block of Main Street.  The county expects to put the west parcel up for sale sometime this year.

The parcel is in the Central Business District (D-1 zone), which allows developers of a corner parcel to build up to 375 feet (about 30-stories).  Projects in the D-1 zone can surpass the 375-foot height limit if approved through the Conditional Building and Site Design Review (CBSDR) process.

The county purchased the 500 South parcel from Property Reserve, Inc. (PRI), the real-estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October of 2013 after abandoning plans to build the DA offices at the intersection of 600 South and State Street (the site of the under-construction 616 Lofts).

The county anticipates construction of the downtown DA office building to be completed spring 2018.  The county also broke ground Thursday on a smaller DA office building in West Jordan. That building will be two stories and will consist of around 28,000 square feet.

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