Developer Brandt Andersen unveiled Gehry's 85-acre "high adventure" residential and retail development plan Wednesday, including a 450-foot, five-star hotel and convention center that would stretch 15 feet higher than Utah's current loftiest high-rise.
"It seems to make sense that the most iconic development in the state would be the highest building in the state," Andersen said. "I think church officials will understand."
Gehry has a record of designing iconic buildings. He created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Gehry is now working on massive projects in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, and was not at Wednesday's unveiling.
The hotel would have 200 to 300 rooms and could be made of glass. It would cover 220,000 square feet in a northern Lehi area Andersen calls "the gateway between Salt Lake and Utah County."
Andersen estimated the cost of the project to reach several billion dollars, and, he said, it will take five to seven years to build.
It would include a 10,000-seat arena - a little more than half the capacity of the EnergySolutions Arena - that would be sunken into the ground to expose a rippled rooftop. Andersen hopes to eventually use it for his NBA developmental league basketball team scheduled to tip off later this year at the McKay Events Center at Utah Valley State College.
"Sports teams have to have a permanent arena to survive over time, as we've seen lately," Andersen said.
The arena may also connect to an amphitheater that will be built nearby.
But the wakeboarding lakes seemed to evoke the most excitement in the small crowd on hand for the unveiling. One of the two lakes - that cover a combined total of 22 acres - would accommodate large competitive wakeboard events and the other would function as a "cable park lake," using pulley systems to tug boarders along the water and launch them off ramps.
"People in Utah are really into wakeboarding more than anywhere I've seen in the country," said Billy McKee, a former professional wakeboarder who moved to the Beehive State from Florida three years ago. "This will be a huge hit."
About 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant space is planned for the project.
The residential space would include about 2,500 units, likely medium- to high-end condominiums, and cover 3 million square feet.
Andersen said over 70 percent of the overall project consists of open space.
"We're trying to create something environmentally friendly in an urban setting," he said.
The site would have its own off-ramp from Interstate 15 about a mile north of the Highland/Alpine exit and a pair of bridges running over the lakes for pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Andersen expects most of the parking would be underground to keep the site as open as possible.
He said the project intends to emphasize Utah's mountains and surroundings.
"Look at Bilbao where Frank took a blank canvas and created amazing art. Now that stands out as an icon," Andersen said. "We perceive this as the same sort of thing. It's an opportunity to change the philosophy in an amazing state with unbelievable natural architecture."
The developers have submitted rezoning requests to Lehi and, if they are approved, will commence construction immediately.
* Frank Gehry's plans will be on display at Lehi's Hutchings Museum, 55 North Center St., and gcodeventures.com.