Telegraph Lofts upzone in 9th+9th approved by city council despite significant opposition from neighborhood

Salt Lake City council members unanimously approved a deal this week that allows Clearwater Homes to build 17 townhomes in four new low-rise structures plus 6 units within the rehabilitated Telegraph Exchange building at 847 South 800 East. 

Both the planning commission and the city council had indicated that their support of the upzone was a result of the developer committing to adapt and reuse the three-story historic building.

Telegraph Exchange building from the southwest. Photo courtesy SLC Planning.

Clearwater’s rental development will be limited to a height of 30 ft (not including parapets), 23 units, and committed to providing 3 units at 80% AMI or less for at least a five year period.

This was the development agreement council member Ana Valdemoros (District 4) negotiated with Micah Peters, Clearwater’s principal. Valdemoros and Darin Mano (District 5) represent opposite halves of the 9th+9th neighborhood.

The site of the Telegraph Exchange project. The home in the foreground is one of two structures that will be demolished. Photo courtesy SLC Planning.

Valdemoros, a former city planner, emphasized in her public statement the need to balance growth and preservation. “Although this proposal will remove two existing homes, we still need to be flexible and do the best that we can when inevitable change happens,” she wrote.  “I support the rezone for its many more positives than negatives.”

Mano, an architect, defined the question as “whether additional residential density is appropriate in this location. It is my personal analysis that it is.” Noting the city’s investment in transit and pedestrian infrastructure in the 9th+9th neighborhood, “to allow more families to live in this area of the city is good policy.”

Valdemoros’ and Mano’s support of the project faced majority opposition from residents on the street as well as from the East Liberty Park Community Organization (ELPCO) and the East Central Community Council.

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.