Moving Draper prison seems to be in the cards
Consultant • Report details four options to free up valuable property for development.
Published: February 5, 2014 10:32PM
Updated: February 5, 2014 10:32PM

No matter which route they take, one thing became clear during a Friday meeting of the Prison Relocation Authority and Development Committee: The state’s main prison facility will likely be leaving Draper.

A consultant hired to help the committee decide if, when and how to relocate the Draper prison presented a preliminary report detailing four options — none of which keep the state prison on its current plot of land.

Brad Sassatelli, project director for MGT of America, told the committee Friday that if they did nothing with the Draper facility, projected growth estimates indicate that the Utah Department of Corrections will still need an additional 3,000 beds by 2033 to accommodate the rising prison population. And by 2018, the state would likely need to build a new facility, anyway, to deal with the population increase.

And if the current prison stays where it is, the aging buildings will likely need to be repaired or rebuilt in the meantime, according to Sassatelli.

“There are some housing facilities in Wasatch and Oquirrh sections that need to be replaced very soon,” Sassatelli said, adding that the state would likely spend $238.9 million repairing the facility.

The four options presented by the consultant were:

• Replace the Draper prison by 2018, at an estimated cost of $942 million.

• Replace the Draper prison by 2018, while housing 23 percent of the prisoners in various county jails, at an estimated cost of $856.7 million.

• Phase out the Draper prison by 2024, at an estimated cost of $908.1 million.

• Phase out the Draper prison by 2020, at an estimated cost of $851.6 million.

But Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, told the consultants that he’d like to see a fifth option added: Keeping the prison where it is.

“I want to make sure people understand that not moving the prison doesn’t mean we’re not spending money,” Hutchings said. “I think they need to clearly understand there are massive dollars behind not relocating the prison.”

If the prison is relocated, it allows the state to sell the 680-acre property to developers to build retail, commercial, light industrial and housing units.

It is estimated that if the state sold the land “as-is,” the property is worth $51.3 million. If the state were to redevelop the land and sell it as parcels or pods to developers, it is estimated to be worth $130 million, according to Gary Free, president of Free and Associates, Inc.

If the Draper site is sold and developed, Sassatelli’s study shows the state could yield more than $1.8 billion in economic benefits each year once it is fully developed.

But if the committee decides to go forward with the plan to relocate and sell the land, it is not quite clear where the new prison would go. Along with a list of land and other physical prerequisites, Bob Nardi, with the Lewis Burger Group, said it would be important to find a community that embraces having the prison in their area.

“The key factor going forward is finding a community that is a willing host,” Nardi told the committee. “One can find a site that is ideal, but if it’s in a community that isn’t supportive, you haven’t really made much progress.”

The committee set a Feb. 5 date to continue discussion about relocation, and hoped to have a recommendation to give during the upcoming legislative session at that time.

Relocating the prison was last debated in 2005, when an analysis [by Wikstrom Economic and Planning Consultants] found relocation costs exceeded any economic benefit to the state. That report estimated building a new prison would cost between $417 million and $475 million — far more than the $93 million it estimated the property was worth if put to the “highest and best use,” which it identified as residential housing. The study also found there was likely to be little savings from reducing staff because the prison was “extremely efficient as is.”

Last year, the Governor’s Office for Economic Development estimated commercial development using the prison site could generate up to 40,000 jobs and $20 billion over 25 years.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller