Utah officials unveil key design details for new suburban neighborhood at The Point

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An empty field and a historic chapel are now all that remain on the Draper site that was home to the Utah State Penitentiary for more than 70 years. 

The now scrubbed-bare site is a blank screen where Utah’s federal, state and local government officials are projecting a vision of a thriving new urbanist, technology and research community. 

On Monday, leaders of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority took the first steps toward realizing that vision and signed agreements with Innovation Point Partners, a private development team made up of Lincoln Property Co. of Dallas, Texas, Colmena Group of Salt Lake City and Draper-based Wadsworth Development Group. 

Those teams will shape the first phase of the project known as The Point. The development partnership for phase one of The Point will hold 99-year leases for 99 acres of the 600 total acres of the property near the border of Salt Lake and Utah counties. Of the 99 acres, 66 will be available for vertical development.

Alan Matheson, executive director of The Point

“In an agreement like this we are trying to balance a number of things. The primary things we’re balancing are, a high quality development, a high return to the state but also ensuring there is a timely process so we are moving ahead today,” said Alan Matheson, executive director for the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority (POMSLA), the entity formed by the Utah Legislature to oversee redevelopment of the land once occupied by the prison.

It has been nearly seven years since state lawmakers saw an opportunity to relocate and replace the aging state prison and build a new, taxpaying community on the increasingly valuable property in Draper. 

“We want to optimize this opportunity for the taxpayers of Utah. This land will continue to be owned by the state but the long-term ground leases will provide an ongoing revenue stream rather than the one time infusion of cash (if the land were sold),” Matheson said. “We (the state) will continue to be the land use authority to ensure the vision will be carried out.”  

Matheson said the development of phase one was informed by copious amounts of public input and translated into a masterplan by a team lead by the Chicago-based international design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).

“The concept plan will start at the center and create an exciting place we think, will attract opportunity,” Matheson said addressing an audience of government officials, board members and the media gathered at the Clear Link offices on the Draper bench overlooking the building site to the west. 

Kip Wadsworth, Wadsworth Development president

Kip Wadsworth, president of Draper-based Wadsworth Development said he feels he’s in a unique position as part of the development team.

“I have established relationships with mayors, the legislators and the DFCM, the people involved here,” he said. “But also, as a native Utahn, and someone born and raised in Draper, I want to make sure what we build here is something good for the community and for the future. I want to be able to bring my grandkids here to see what we’ve done and be proud of it. Maybe they will live here. I hope to move our (Wadsworth Development) headquarters here eventually.”

Flanked by project renderings, Matheson pointed out defining elements of phase one’s development including: a wide, pedestrian promenade with shops and restaurants and Central Park, an outdoor gathering space designed to accommodate a range of activities.

Phase one of the redevelopment plan will include just over 3,300 multifamily residential units,  about 12 percent of them affordable. The masterplan also anticipates more than 2.3 million square feet of office space, 540 hotel rooms, 356,000 square feet of retail space and a 60,000-square-foot events center. 

Two of the more distinctive features will be an area known as Innovation Row and the River to Range trail connection through the center of the development. Innovation Row is envisioned as a collection of work and gathering spaces to foster interaction between entrepreneurs from the private, university and business sectors. 

Jim Russell, director for Utah’s Division of Facilities Construction and Management said the state will build and operate a key element of Innovation Row known as Convergence Hall. 

“We see it a lot like the Lassonde Institute at the University of Utah,” he said, referring to the live/work building that operates as a business incubator for students in the David Eccles College of Business at the U. “There will be gathering spaces, workshops, and labs and space where people can develop ideas and products.”

The other defining feature of Phase One will be the River to Range Trail, a 1.4-mile paved pathway that bisects the development and connects the Jordan River Parkway trail to the Corner Canyon trail in Draper. 

Soren Simonsen, Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission said the group has been involved with advocating for the River to Range trail and for the new FrontRunner station.

Soren Simonsen, Jordan River Commission

“It is great that the trail is now a central feature of the development,” Simonsen said. “And, as far as the FrontRunner station, there is probably no better place for a direct connection between transit and the Jordan River Trail than right here.”

Simonsen noted in most cases, the fencing along the FrontRunner rails is a barrier to those wanting to access the Jordan River trail.

“There is usually no way to get across the tracks except on a highway and those are not built for bikes and pedestrians, so the FrontRunner station itself becomes a connection and breaks down the barrier of the rail line,” Simonsen said. “Now there is a connection not only to transit but to the Jordan River trail and that is a huge win for connectivity.” 

Simonsen is professionally trained and has worked as architect and urban planner and said he’s generally been pleased with the designs for The Point and the focus on transit options.

South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey serves on the POMSLA board and is also a member of the Wasatch Front Regional Council also praised the plans focus on a wide range of transit options.

“The plans for The Point align with the vision of the Wasatch Regional Council by including so many transit choices,” she said. 

Russell said the state has allocated $165 million to install basic infrastructure and roads on the site and that work is scheduled to start this spring.  

Email Brian Fryer

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