Maven is looking to expand its mixed-use footprint to State Street in Liberty Wells


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The firm behind the Maven District, a collection of mixed-use buildings across Salt Lake City, is expanding its footprint, this time with an adaptive reuse and residential project in the Liberty Wells neighborhood.

Maven has partnered with the Colmena Group on a project at a site that has struggled for years under previous owners who largely neglected a pair of buildings near 1800 S. State.

Representatives stressed in interviews with Building Salt Lake that their plans are preliminary. They’d like to hear what residents in the surrounding neighborhood would like to see before finalizing a proposal that will likely require a rezone. But their framework so far includes retrofitting an existing warehouse to create space for underserved business owners and building a new mixed-income, mixed-use building on the site.

This would be one of the first times Colmena is involved in a significant rehab project, historically starting from scratch on a vacant site before building. Maven says it would continue its focus on making homes for business owners from underserved communities.

“A lot of first time entrepreneurs are overwhelmed or scared or don’t have available funds to start a business,” said Tessa Arneson, founder of Maven. “One of the main things we can do to get more people and underserved founders into the game is to provide” easy leases and flexible spaces.

There will be around 40 such spaces in all, including room for retail, office, fitness, food and more.

After getting its start with a mixed-use development around 150 E. 900 S. in the Central City neighborhood, Maven has been busy expanding its footprint across the capital city.

Another mixed-use project is underway across the street from the original development, and the firm recently opened Maven West, a residential building with space for a restaurant at ground level, in the Central 9th neighborhood.

The company focuses on supporting local, female and underserved founders getting into their first homes for their businesses, Arneson said. Three-quarters of the 70 businesses they work with are women-owned. 

That’s the plan for Maven State, whose residential component may require a rezone of at least a portion of the 1.07-acre property (46,600 square feet). Here’s what we know.

A Google Earth image facing east across State Street at 1791 South in Liberty Wells, where the Maven District is looking to expand its footprint with a pair of mixed-use buildings.

More about the site

This property in southwest Liberty Wells sits on the hard boundary created by State Street, a nine-lane, state-owned surface highway that both fosters and hamstrings walkability in the area.

The commercial zoning along State Street offers the most space for businesses in Liberty Wells, making the edges of Liberty Wells walkable on paper (if an unpleasant place to saunter, linger or otherwise travel outside a car).

The warehouse at 1815 S. State is considered very walkable by WalkScore.com, meaning most daily errands can be accomplished on foot in a reasonably short period of time.

Indeed, on the north side of Coatsville and State sits Qaderi Sweetz n Spicez market, a full-service grocery store offering Pakistani and Indian fares. A block north, on the corner of 1700 South State, the full-service Asian market Ocean City is in the process of relocating.

There is a cluster of bars, restaurants and new housing both along State and flanking 1700 South in the Ballpark neighborhood. A new mixed-income project at 1749 S. State recently replaced a rundown motel that was previously a source of common and sometimes deadly crime and now home to very low-income through market rate housing.

The area is served by one of the region’s most popular bus routes, Route 200, which is served by 15-minute headways. Yet nearby stops, including at Coatsville and State, require riders to stand amongst the intense heat island created by the adjacent stretch of pavement and lack of shade. 

Maven has partnered with the Colmena Group, which was recently named as a key developer of the former prison site at the Point of the Mountain, in Draper.

This is the first significant project in Salt Lake City since Colmena lost its position as the primary developer of the Sears Block near 800 S. State. (Intermountain Healthcare purchased the property from Colmena in December and plans to relocate its LDS Hospital from the Upper Avenues to the center of the city.) 

“This adaptive reuse is new for us,” said Aabir Malik, vice president of development for Colmena. “One of the things that makes neighborhoods unique and interesting is trying to utilize what’s already there.”

The warehouse building has more than 36,000 square feet. While its exterior has been boarded up for years after a structure fire during the previous ownership of the site, a recent tour by Building Salt Lake confirmed the building is in surprisingly good condition.

The curved design on the building’s southwest end offers a rare architectural style that the new owners say they want to preserve and restore with the project.

A 4,200 square foot former office building on the corner of Coatsville and State that was undergoing a yearslong retrofit into a hot pot restaurant will likely be replaced entirely.

What we know about the project

The firms also control two vacant single-family houses on the northeast end of the site, along Coatsville Avenue, which will be removed. 

On the southeast end sits a surface parking lot that once served customers at Fadels furniture warehouse before it closed this location more than 15 years ago. The houses and parking lot are both zoned single-family, matching the bulk of the surrounding area east of State.

The buildings fronting State are zoned commercial. 

It’s likely the firms will ask the city to rezone the entire property as residential mixed-use (R-MU) to allow for the residential building to be up to 75 feet (or taller if the groups go through the design review process).

RMU is one of the most permissive zoning types in the city’s residential codes, allowing for virtually any type of business or housing type either by-right or with conditional permission from the city.

That would allow Maven State to host the range of businesses Arneson envisions, plus make space for about 150 residential units ranging from studios to two-bedrooms.

“We really try to think of each property as almost like a chess board. What types of hours does the community already thrive, and what times is it not?” Arneson said. “Are there nighttime businesses? Daytime businesses? Businesses that people go in and out of all day long?”

The framework Maven and Colmena have so far is to create a courtyard space between the new residential building and rehabilitated office and retail building. The courtyard would be flanked by restaurants, and retail spaces would face State Street.

People driving cars would access parking on the east side of the residential building from either Coatsville or Downington avenues.

The project could further push the idea of creating a signalized crosswalk over State Street, which would better connect Maven with the Ballpark neighborhood and with the southbound bus stop that’s across UDOT’s highway.

No displacement from this pair of vacant buildings between Coatsville and Downington at UDOT’s US-89 surface highway through Salt Lake City.

A chance for feedback

Malik and Arneson said while they have a framework for their plans at the site, they’re welcoming ideas for what residents would like to see incorporated into Maven State.

The firms are sharing more information at the Maven Outdoor Summer Market on Sept. 24 at 177 East 900 South, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Email Taylor Anderson.

Interested in seeing where developers are proposing and building new apartments in Salt Lake, or just want to support a local source of news on what’s happening in your neighborhood? Subscribe to Building Salt Lake.

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.