SLC RDA has a new pitch for Station Center. Taller heights (like 40 stories) are in the mix

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The blocks between the Rio Grande terminal and UTA’s Salt Lake Central Station have been part of the city’s Redevelopment Agency’s TIF Depot District for two decades.

In that time, the city has assembled enough property to call the shots on the two blocks between 200 and 400 South, 600 and 500 West.

Conceptual plans have come and gone. First iterations centered a public market as a catalyst, and more recently a Life Sciences hub with the University of Utah—an option the RDA is no longer talking about.

Next week the RDA Board will hear the latest efforts from the project’s most recent consultants.

Elements from previous conceptual site plans are retained. The RDA is still committed to building new public infrastructure to incentivize investors. The “festival street” concept along 300 South, meant to capture the public-right-of-way’s potential to host events, remains intact.

Let’s take a look at some of the presentation’s slides, which were narrated by RDA staff at a Redevelopment Advisory Committee meeting this week.

Public realm

Latest drawings show a commitment to greening 500 West as part of the city’s Green Loop plan. Ashley Ogden, a senior project manager with the RDA, told the advisory committee that the agency would be willing to invest in the 500 West Green Loop before other sections of the Downtown system are built out.

Courtesy Perkins&Will Design.

Besides 300 South as a festival street, Woodbine Court at ~550 West is shown reaching 400 South, helping make the blocks smaller.

A new east-west street at ~350 South (called Market Street) has also been drawn.

Land uses

Conceptual site plans for land use show a mix of market-driven product as well as arts-oriented subsidized spaces. Designers emphasis makers and incubator paces along Woodbine Court, as well as offering large floor plates to anchor tenants, parking, and a hotel.

RDA staff emphasized that these are likely only ground-floor uses. Image courtesy Perkins&Will Design.

Staff member Ogden noted that the RDA has been in close communication with the private land holders in the project area’s footprint and that cooperation appears to be strong.

Parking

The RDA envisions building a large parking structure and establishing a parking management strategy with other large parking providers (UTA, Gateway).

Providing a publicly-funded parking structure for future development has long been an RDA strategy, even though the area has the state’s best transit connections and walkability has long been a Station Center goal.

Courtesy Perkins&Will Design.

Ogden reiterated the parking structure strategy to the committee, even while noting that “typically residential projects like to provide their own parking.”

Urban form: the impact of increased density and height

The RDA didn’t invent the idea, but it sure seems to be on board.

There’s no doubt that upzoning the two blocks will help stimulate development. The idea has piqued the city council’s curiosity as well as being studied by the Planning Division.

Given that the mayor is the executive director of the RDA, the notion seems to have real motion.

Perkins&Will, the RDA’s consultants based in Chicago, drew an aerial profile with a tower at 400 feet, just 50 feet under the Astra, the state’s tallest building currently under construction in D-1 zoning Downtown.

Images courtesy Perkins&Will Design.

How the RDA will set purchase prices for their parcels given an upzone (and likely public exactions) will be a challenge for appraisers and policy makers alike.

Timetable

Staff member Ogden told the committee that a first phase is likely to include a buildout of 300 South. But a conceptual plan won’t be ready until the end of this year.

The zoning changes, which Ogden noted are dependent on the City Council’s and Mayor’s endorsements, are “pretty ambitious.” They would likely take 1-2 years.

She noted issuing RFPs for the RDA’s properties on 100 South, between 600 and 700 West, are also on the front burner.

The RDA Board will hear the presentation from Perkins&Will at its meeting “next week,” although public agendas are yet to be posted. That meeting is likely Tuesday September 12.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.