SLC looks to reshape heart of Sugar House community

Published March 9, 2010 11:20 pm
Planning » Developer intends to create new public spaces, including garden.
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If Salt Lake City sees its vision through, the new heart of Sugar House won't be the dreary dirt lot, or sugar mill monument -- it will be a community garden and public courtyard surrounded by shops and housing for Westminster College.

In the wintertime, the worn 2-acre lot just southeast of the iconic 2100 South and 1100 East intersection, would be a public ice-skating rink. Designed for walkability, the "civic center" would connect to Hidden Hollow and could host concerts, a farmers market and Fourth of July parties.

That blueprint bested eight other bids Tuesday as the Redevelopment Agency approved the first-place ranking for Wilmington Garden Group, giving the developer nine months to secure financing and submit a formal building plan. Run by Jeff Woodbury and the Olsen family, the group is angling to purchase the city-owned property between 1193 and 1233 East Wilmington Ave. just west of Sugar House Park.

The Wilmington project is intended to incorporate public open space and get people out of their cars, Woodbury told the City Council, acting as the RDA board.

"We viewed the hollow as an anchor rather than an afterthought," he said, noting another goal was to serve as a conduit for nearby Westminster College. "It will make all the businesses more successful. It will make the area more alive."

Woodbury said motivation for the design came during a city-sponsored tour of Portland, Ore., last year. Calling Westminster the biggest economic driver for the Sugar House business district, Woodbury wants to make the connection to the college more prominent.

The Wilmington proposal calls for an eight-story building with ground-level shops and offices, topped by roughly 150 units of student housing.

Part of the housing would be built with Westminster, while some commercial space would also be reserved for the growing school. The plan also calls for partnering with property owners on the south side of Wilmington to add more residential units and office space, connecting it to the overall district.

The model shows how the site can serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood, and has "big-picture thinking," Councilman Soren Simonsen said.

"This has truly raised the bar," Councilman J.T. Martin added. "We're going to change the dynamic of Sugar House. There is a chance it will move, at least temporarily, the center of Sugar House."

"Especially because there's a big hole on the other side," Councilman Luke Garrott quipped.

Developer Craig Mecham, who bulldozed the buildings Garrott referenced for a residential-retail project that is now on hold, hoped to redevelop the Wilmington property. Calling themselves Hidden Hollow Court, Mecham Management finished second behind Woodbury.

Mecham and colleague Russ Callister protested the ranking process as "unfair and unjust." Later, the duo grumbled from the back of the room as the board discussed the winning bid.

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In other city news:

» The Redevelopment Agency extended by six months its exclusive negotiation agreement with LDS Church development arm Property Reserve Inc. to complete the acquisition of the former Newspaper Agency Corp. printing presses on Main Street between 100 South and 200 South. The city is targeting the building as a Broadway-style theater. In a related move, the RDA approved a contract with Garfield Traub Swisher for pre-development services at the theater site.

» To prevent more demolitions in the Yalecrest neighborhood, the City Council enacted an ordinance establishing temporary land-use regulations for areas known as the Yalecrest National Historic District and the Westmoreland Place Subdivision.

» The council took its first step toward adopting an Historic Preservation Plan, likely this summer, which will designate one of the capital's seven districts as a new historic district.

Derek P. Jensen



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