Draper City has crafted a conceptual plan for a mixed-use development that would take the place of the Utah State Prison to help lawmakers and the public get a vision of what could happen at the site.
The drawings, shared at the Capitol on Thursday and Friday, depict a research park, office buildings, retail stores and medium- and high-density residences tucked into a triangle bordered by Interstate 15 and Bangerter Highway.
Prison of the future
On Friday, the Alliance for a Better UTAH, which advocates for sound government, released a statement urging lawmakers to be as transparent as possible as they consider PRADA’s recommendation that the Utah State Prison be moved and take advantage of an “historic opportunity they have to lead the rest of the country in reforming what is largely a broken criminal justice system.”
The group called on lawmakers with real estate and development ties to publicly declare a conflict of interest and ensure their businesses are not involved in any real estate ventures associated with moving the prison. According to disclosure forms filled out by lawmakers, 21 representatives who will consider the proposal have real estate and development ties.
The alliance also wants lawmakers to ensure that a new prison is “modeled on the prison policy of the future. Mandatory-minimum sentencing, changes to drug crimes, alternative sentencing options, pre-release facilities, probation-offender centers, and post-incarceration treatment options should all be addressed.”
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said Friday she is not surprised that the left-leaning group would try to make it look like legislators who are involved in real estate development have a conflict of interest.
“This is what is so great about Utah. This is a citizen Legislature,” added House Majority Leader Brad Dee. “We all have a conflict of interest somewhere,” Dee said, noting that each lawmaker has to file a conflict of interest disclosure form.
But he said the Legislature also isn’t making decisions yet on where or how to move the prison.
“We’re not talking today about who may benefit or what may happen. … All we’re talking about today is: Should we move the Draper facility?” Dee said. Other questions will be settled in the coming years.
To demand the kind of disclosure ABU wants, he said, “That’s ludicrous.”
“I would tend to guess this will be the most transparent development you have ever seen, but it won’t be for a few years,” Dee said.
— Brooke Adams and Robert Gehrke
Draper Mayor Troy Walker said that while there was talk about what could happen at the prison site, no one had shown what the property’s future could look like.
"I’m a guy who needs to see a picture," said Walker, adding that he personally put a lot of effort into the concept. "Our interest in Draper is we want it to be a productive part of our community in the sense of providing jobs, commercial enterprise, homes, all those things."
"We wanted to let everyone know Draper City is not going to be provincial, is not unwilling to dream big, and those drawings are a good rendition of our vision," said Walker. "We want to show you that we’re players, we’ll do it the way it needs to be done, we think we know how to plan it, we know how to zone it, and we think we know what would work really well there."
The Draper City Council also passed a resolution this week supporting the prison’s relocation and redevelopment of the nearly 700 acres it currently occupies as a "significant economic center."
"We feel like this is something that, while it would benefit Draper City, is a unique opportunity to benefit the entire region and the state as we look to create an economic center, an employment center. We’re looking at jobs, not just subdivisions and strip malls," said Draper City Councilman Jeff Stenquist.
The resolution states that its vision for the property is in line with growth plans developed by the Wasatch Front Regional Council, as it would "accommodate future population growth as well as provide opportunities for employees and residents to live close to work, walk or bike to shop, and have both great transit and road access" necessary to lessen negative effects of congestion and poor air quality.
Stenquist said the city hired a consultant a month or so ago to work with its economic development staff to create drawings that capture Draper’s vision, modeled after the Denver Technical Center, for the triangle-shaped property bordered on the east by I-15 and on the west by Bangerter Highway.
"Knowing what could go there helps us understand the cost-benefit debate," Stenquist said. "What we came up with isn’t based on a concrete proposal at this point, it’s just a concept."
PRADA announced earlier this month that its review shows that moving the prison works financially and is necessary to keep pace with inmate population growth and improve treatment services. It’s the second time the authority has come to that conclusion.
The preliminary report by MGT of America, the consultant working with PRADA, estimates the annual economic benefit of redeveloping the prison site would be $1.8 billion.
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville and a member of the PRADA board, has introduced a pair of resolutions designed to give the authority approval to move ahead with the project. The House Republican caucus on Thursday gave its nod to the idea.
"We’re hoping that the Legislature and the governor will move forward as quickly as practical on this and this is what we are trying to urge them to do," Stenquist said.
Walker met with House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, on Friday morning to share the city’s drawings. Lockhart later told media that "it looked like a visionary document."
"The decision about what happens on that land is off in the future," Lockhart said. "The decisions we’re making today are, will the prison move and if the prison moves where will we put the new one? … All the decisions about what happens to the land, that’s years from now."
Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.
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