The Granary District is stuck in outdated zoning that won’t be changing anytime soon

Development in the Granary is gaining ever more momentum, despite the challenges of outdated zoning and inadequate infrastructure.

While the CG General Commercial zone that covers the Granary is flexible, it forces many developments needing height increases and yard size reductions into the design review and planned development processes.

Three of those new developments are showcased below.

Both city planners and developers complain that design review and planned development costs them dearly in money and time. Yet the city’s planning office says there are no immediate plans to remedy the situation by updating the Granary’s zoning ordinance and map. 

Fleet Block?

The city’s Planning Division has finished polishing their proposal for Fleet Block zoning changes, and the city council has tentatively scheduled it for an early October discussion.

The Fleet Block waits, and waits. Aerial photo from the SW by Luke Garrott.

A new form-based code, FB-UN-3, is being proposed for the block. Its goal, according to a staff report, is to encourage pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development, allowing light manufacturing and industrial assembly along with greater building heights and a removal of parking minimums and maximums. 

It sounds like a natural fit for the rest of the Granary. Nick Norris, Planning Director, confirmed as much in an email: “The Fleet Block zoning proposal was drafted to be applied to the Granary and frankly, to other CG  and M-1 zoned areas in the City.”

Adaptive reuse in the Granary, Fisher Brewing. They needed a zoning text amendment to be able to make and serve their beer without also being a restaurant. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Yet planning staff doesn’t have the capacity to carry out zoning changes in the Granary.  Or, for that matter, in other areas of the city – like Ballpark – that are undergoing development under zoning that impedes the style of development that the city wants to see.

Yet there’s another reason the Granary won’t be rezoned anytime soon – Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s equity agenda.

Displacement worries

While Norris recognizes the urgency of fixing Granary’s zoning and implementing elements of the city’s 2016 Downtown master plan, he’s not committed to action.

Fleet Block murals on 800 South, with recently-filled restaurant/retail space on the corner, across 300 West, left-center. Photo by Luke Garrott.

“Once we have an idea of the council’s position on it, we could potentially start discussions with the community about applying the zoning to the rest of the Granary area depending on staff availability,” he told us in an email.

Staff time scarcity isn’t the only factor slowing the process down. 

“The process has to be driven with an eye on equity and in the Granary a big piece of that is displacement of the businesses and people. Displacement is a big part of the history of the Granary, as it was identified as an ‘hazardous area’ on early redlining maps that contained primarily working class people.”

Artspace Commons, at 800 South and 400 West, offers office space to non-profits, retail frontage, and income-targeted units. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Planning Director Norris makes it clear that Mayor Mendenhall’s emphasis on equity will be leading his department’s efforts in the Granary.

He insisted “The future zoning of the area has to support an improved quality of life for the future residents and businesses within the area. The Granary not only is its own distinct place, but it should be a place that helps to bridge the east side/west side divide.”

With such an ambitious vision, don’t expect development in the Granary to get easier anytime soon. The Mayor’s goals “will require a different level of engagement and analysis that has been done with the Fleet Block, mainly because the Fleet Block is mostly an empty site so the direct displacement is not there.” 

Huge, defining projects are being built

As INDUSTRY’s next-gen office space on 500 West comes together, it is building with its partner Q Factor a seven-story, 927-stall parking garage in the middle of the block between 500 + 400 West and 600 + 700 South.

Massing model from the SW of INDUSTRY’s 926-stall garage (in blue) with its planned future construction in yellow. Image courtesy Engine 8 Architecture.

Their proposal is requesting relief from the 60 ft height restriction and requirements for front and rear yard setbacks, and is nearing a hearing with the Planning Commission for design and planned development review.

Q Factor’s Jesse Dean told us that the garage is being built with sprinklers and a high floor-to-floor ratio that will allow its easy conversion to multi-family residential in the future if the area’s transit options grow.

INDUSTRY site, from approximately the same angle as above. Photo by Luke Garrott.

The convertible design has cost the developers approximately 30% more than the typical 18,000-$20,000 per structured parking stall.

The parking garage is intended to service all of INDUSTRY’s planned construction in the District, plus Lake Union Partners’ adaptive reuse project on the southeast side of the block, on 400 West and 700 South.

The construction fences are up for Seattle-based Lake Union’s project with the outdoor retailer evo. They are promising unique retail, restaurants, co-working space, music and movie venues, an art gallery as well as outdoor recreation facilities.

Parking garage site, center-left. The evo campus is being developed by Lake Union Partners, center. Photo by Luke Garrott.
Locals Lloyd Architects are the designers for the eclectic and ambitious adaptive reuse project of Lake Union Partners at 700 South and 400 West. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Industry also plans a residential building on the southwest corner of the block, which will be partially parked by the structure. The building directly north of the parking garage, which the developer is calling “workforce housing,” will be entirely served by its new garage.

Meanwhile, Lowe Property Group, Bridge Investment Group, and Q Factor have broken ground on the first phase of the Post District. They received approval from the city (through design review and planned development processes) for construction of five buildings on the block between 400 + 300 West and 500 + 600 South.

The Post District phase one construction site, center. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Gale Street, which runs north-south through the block, was originally planned as a private street by the developer. The city, however, insisted on maintaining its public easement.

Post District phase one, currently under construction. Image courtesy SLC Planning Division.

Smaller projects continue to pop up

A proposal for Southern Highlands (SOHI) apartments, at 927 South 400 West, has recently been submitted to the planning office for design and planned development review.

Day Development, based in Rockville, MD, and Beecher, Walker architects from Holladay, UT want to build 105 market-rate units and need a height variance from GC’s 60 ft to 70 ft to do it. 

SOHI apartment site at 927 S 400 W is just to the south of the vacant lot, bottom center. Photo taken from the NW by Luke Garrott.

The application plans three levels of parking, one below- and two above grade, with a ground floor leasing office and mail room.

The site is somewhat unique, pushed up against UTA’s diagonal, unused right-of-way to the east. 

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.