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(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A train tests the Sugar House Streetcar line in October 2013. Salt Lake City is seeking a federal grant to extend the line.
Editorial: Don’t overwhelm Sugar House

Take care with streetcar rezoning

First Published Mar 29 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 31 2014 05:22 am

Salt Lake City has an opportunity to transform parts of the capital along the new streetcar route through Sugar House. But transformation can be positive or negative, and there seems to be a temptation to go too far toward making over some older residential areas of small homes by introducing high-rise apartments and commercial buildings.

The City Council should resist that temptation.

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Proposed zoning changes would encourage high-density housing and businesses in structures 45 to 105 feet tall. That type of building would be out of character in this neighborhood.

The taller maximum building heights would be along 700 East at 2100 South. Zoning that would allow 45-foot structures is proposed along segments of Stringham, Simpson, Sugarmont and Wilmington avenues between 600 East and 1000 East.

Residents rightly object to the plan, especially the building heights over 100 feet. That kind of structure is not compatible with their homes. Forty-five-foot buildings would also stand out among the single-family houses on the quiet, residential streets east of 600 East.

The streetcar connecting east Sugar House with the TRAX station west of West Temple at about 2200 South will undoubtedly change the area, but the city should not encourage changes that are too drastic.

Transit-oriented development is often an improvement along TRAX and FrontRunner lines. Station Park in Farmington is a good example of a mostly undeveloped property transformed at a FrontRunner stop and intersection of I-15, U.S. 89 and Legacy Parkway into a large retail, entertainment and residential center.

The Sugar House Streetcar is not FrontRunner, and Sugar House is not west Farmington. Sugar House is an established residential neighborhood with a traditional character that Salt Lake City should want to preserve.

Small retail businesses, offices and multiple-unit housing complexes that fit and enhance that character are appropriate, but 45- or 100-foot buildings would block mountain views, bring added vehicle traffic and noise and generally intrude on quiet residential streets.

Salt Lake City has a treasure in its Sugar House neighborhoods. The City Council should not risk ruining that treasure by trying to create unattractive transit-oriented centers that detract from the neighborhood atmosphere that attracts people to Sugar House in the first place.

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