General Growth Properties, Inc., the Chicago-based owner of the aging mall on the southeast corner of 4800 South and Highland Drive, on Thursday unveiled long-awaited - but still quite nebulous - plans for Cottonwood Mall that combine retail space, offices and residential units.
The envisioned cost of the project, for instance, was not disclosed. "A lot of money" was as far as Kris Longson, General Growth Properties vice president of development, was willing to go.
Nor did he say whether the new mall would have as much space dedicated to retail as the existing, 45-year-old mall - roughly 730,000 square feet of leasable space. "Retail [space] may be a little less," he offered.
And how much housing will there be? Longson was not certain about that either. "The residential count right now is 500 units," he said, but that could change as artists' renditions are turned into detailed architectural drawings and the company's plan goes through Holladay City's administrative process.
Randy Fitts, Holladay city manager, said General Growth Properties has not submitted any applications for the project, which Longson indicated could begin next year and apparently would involve the demolition of all of the existing mall, except perhaps the Macy's department store on the north end.
Still, Fitts and City Council members attending the unveiling expressed pleasure that renderings are on the table after months of uncertainty that prompted many mall tenants, including longtime mainstays such as Hammond Toys, to move elsewhere.
"The Cottonwood Mall is the engine that drives the city, and for a couple of years, we've been concerned about the direction it's going," said Fitts. "You hate to see the mall the way it is. You hate to see it go down. But we're in an evolutionary cycle, where you can see what [good development] can happen here."
He noted that city officials have designated the 57-acre mall site as a redevelopment area. That makes the developers eligible for public assistance for infrastructure improvements such as water, power and sewer lines and improved access to public streets.
"We'll do as much as we can to make this a quality project," he added, opining that the initial plans reminded him of "Gateway and Daybreak married together."
General Growth Properties hired the architectural firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. to design the project, citing its urban planning experience in developing 300 new and existing communities in the United States and overseas. The architectural firm, which has offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., has been working with authorities in Louisiana and Mississippi to help communities rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk said the mall is envisioned to be a community whose internal streets will feature retail at the ground level, and will be oriented to afford pedestrians striking views of Mount Olympus and Twin Peaks.
Retail space will be topped by commercial offices and some higher-density housing units in the center of the new development, with various types of housing - from a few single-family dwellings to town houses and condominiums - flanking existing neighborhoods to the east and south.
More green space around Big Cottonwood Creek will create a parklike atmosphere, she added.
"The creek can be much more than it has been," said Plater-Zyberk, characterizing the project as "retail areas of a past age being revitalized as part of the neighborhood that grew up around them."
In a prepared statement, General Growth Properties chief executive John Bucksbaum said that "by 2010, Cottonwood will look nothing like its present form. . . . It will be a highly desirable place to live, shop, dine and work."
Even without many details, Holladay Councilwoman Pat Pignanelli called the artists' renderings and the general description of the project "a good beginning."
"It will be a good destination place - and fun, and beautiful, and exactly what we need in the area."
* The two-level, enclosed regional mall had 730,000 square feet of leasable area.
* At one point, it had around 100 tenants.
* The mall serves a population of roughly 400,000, a number expected to remain static over the next five years.
* The current median age is 32.9.
* The current average household income is $76,281.
Source: General Growth Properties Web site