Cottonwood Heights • A major piece of commercial development is falling into place for Salt Lake County’s youngest city.
Construction began in late February on the first of two high-end office buildings called Cornerstone I and II in Cottonwood Corporate Center, the business park in Cottonwood Heights just south of the intersection of 6200 South and Interstate 215 near Old Mill Golf Course.
The $80 million project by Cottonwood Partners, a real estate-development company with primary offices in Park City, will offer 268,000 square feet of Class A office space, with completion of the first building slated for about a year from now.
The buildings go up as office space vacancy rates in the Salt Lake area’s suburban markets are at a five-year low, having closed 2013 at 11.1 percent, down from 17.3 percent in 2009. Similar spaces are under construction across the county — including several high-profile projects in downtown Salt Lake City — after a building lull related to the economic downturn.
"Everything is being leased up," said Brian Berndt, planning director for Cottonwood Heights, which incorporated in 2005. "This is one of those nice projects that adds a lot of value to the city."
With exteriors in red sandstone and glass, weathered copper and eucalyptus wood interior finishes and an elegant three-story glass lobby connecting the two buildings, the Cornerstone complex is intended to make a strong architectural impression, the developer said.
"It will be striking," said John L. West, CEO of Cottonwood Partners. "We felt this was a location that demanded a higher level of quality."
The new buildings will occupy the last parcel of open land in a 45-acre business development by Cottonwood Partners, constructed in stages over nearly two decades. It already features four office buildings directly next to I-215 occupied by technology and other companies such as Fusion-iO and Centershift and another building to the southeast, which serves as the regional headquarters of health insurer Regence Group-Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Several features of the Cornerstone buildings and similar projects reflect what industry experts say are major trends in new office space construction, as the businesses that lease such offices increasingly rely on workplace ambience and amenities to lure valuable young employees.
Elements ranging from visually appealing decor, convenient location, recreational facilities, integrated work and relaxation areas and even energy efficiency are increasing in demand by employers of workers born between 1980 and 2000, referred to as Generation Y, Echo Boomers and Millenials, said Tab Cornelison, senior vice president and office space expert at the commercial real estate firm CBRE.
"Tenants will pay more for cool and creative space if they understand they can use this space as a tool to attract and retain talent," Cornelison told a January industry gathering in Salt Lake City.
Along with its centerpiece lobby — done in crushed blue glass with a futuristic chandelier— the Cornerstone site will also offer a cafe, concierge services and high-speed Internet.
The site incorporates extensive open spaces on its grounds, including a system of walking and biking paths tied into trails leading up Big Cottonwood Canyon. There’s a golf course nearby and ski resorts just up the canyon. And the building offers showering facilities for an easier blend of work and play.
It is also situated to take advantage of its spot at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. Said West: "This will have spectacular views."
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