Adjacent to transit zoning, credit union seeks to keep drive-thru and build 5-story parking garage

In a zoning application currently out for public comment, an America First Credit Union in Central City is seeking to roll back the tide of transit-oriented zoning changes over the last 15 years near the 400 South TRAX corridor.

At 455 E. 500 South, just a block from 400 South and two from the nearest TRAX stop at 600 East, the existing four-story America First office building currently has a non-conforming drive-thru and a parking garage that needs replacing.

Since drive-thrus are not allowed in either the current zone (R-MU-45 Residential Mixed Use) or the applicant’s proposed zone (RO Residential Office), America First wants to write special rules allowing a “financial institution with drive-thru” in the RO zone only between 700 East and I-15.

500 South is one-way. Circa 2010 the city Transportation Division, under Mayor Ralph Becker, reduced the car travel lanes from five to three and added a bike lane.

The area rates as a “Walker’s and Biker’s Paradise” according to Walk Score, with “many nearby public transportation options.”

Yet 500 South is still suffering the legacy of being treated as an on-ramp to I-15, even as the actual ramp is a full 10 blocks away at 500 West.

Request details

The applicant, represented by Rick Magness of AWA Engineering, has three asks of the city.

The first is a zoning map amendment. Currently zoned R-MU-45 Residential Mixed Use, building height is limited to 55 feet with design review. The proposed garage is 52 feet tall.

The requested zone is RO Residential Office, with a maximum height of 75 feet.

Drive-thrus are not permitted uses in either R-MU or RO. America First‘s second request is that “Financial Institution with Drive-Through and Parking Structure” be added as a permitted use in the RO zone, but only on 500 and 600 South from 700 East to I-15.

Third, the construction project—consisting of a new 52-foot tall four-story parking garage—needs Planned Development status given its reduced setbacks at the rear, corner side yard, and interior side yard.

Project details

The existing three-level parking structure, which fronts the mid-block Denver Street (450 East) is “unsafe and needs to be replaced,” project representative Magness told Building Salt Lake.

The need is so great, Magness said, that “Currently AFCU cannot provide enough parking to lease the three remaining floors of the office building because no on-site parking can be provided.”

The new five-level garage, designed by Studio 333 Architects, will be connected to the existing building by a second-story enclosed walkway.

The existing building will undergo only minor alterations, and the site will be redesigned to have car traffic flow from Denver Street to 500 South. America First also owns the one-story office structure at 475 E., at the northwest corner of 500 East and 500 South. Its site plan appears to restripe the surface parking lots to provide 25 stalls for the America First building.

Added to the 197 planned for the new parking structure, that’s 225 spots for the 55,600 SF building.

The city requires no off-street parking under the current zone. If rezoned to RO, the city would require three spaces for every 1000 SF, which would equal 185 stalls, by Building Salt Lake’s calculation.

Planning staff are currently seeking public comment on the project until April 22 at The application will then be scheduled at the Planning Commission and the City Council for a vote on the zoning change and text amendment.

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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.