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Holladay to adopt a 'village' design

Published August 26, 2004 2:06 am

Ordinance: The city wants to lure a developer to remake the neighborhood retail district with charm, utility
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HOLLADAY - Intent on avoiding big-box retailers and hoping to create a "village" that is both charming and walkable, officials here are expected to adopt a new ordinance tonight that would cement design standards for the town center.

The City Council may also pick a realignment plan for the Holladay Village Center's awkward intersection at 2300 East and Murray-Holladay Boulevard.

Now, the challenge focuses around luring a developer to recast the neighborhood retail district while looking through a progressive lens. Community development director and architect Ken Millard says the goal is to marry the aesthetic with practical needs.

"A little more homey, not big-boxey," he says. "We want activity on the streets again, like Salt Lake used to be."

As it stands, the area is a hodgepodge of aging storefronts, a spiffy strip mall adjacent to City Hall and the state's oldest pharmacy.

But crumbling asphalt, a dearth of sidewalks and the "dangerous" five-pointed intersection create what some in the city call "an embarrassment."

The ordinance - tweaked often since the spring - outlines size restrictions, how far a building can be set back from the street, aesthetics and landscaping standards.

"It tries to create a village instead of having walls that are 50 feet high," says City Manager Randy Fitts. "We want to make this a place to shop and enjoy the atmosphere."

In July, City Council members flew to Southern California to evaluate grocers. They prefer a Wild Oats-type market, perhaps Ralph's Fresh Fare, which is significantly smaller at 15,000 square feet than the 40,000 to 50,000 that Smith's Food & Drug Centers covets.

"That fits the niche of our community," says Gordon Hanks, who has run nearby Holladay Pharmacy since 1966. "What we don't want is another damn grocery store."

The market may land on city-owned property in the heart of the district, which could also house specialty shops and restaurants.

Fitts says the commercial stretch is not intended as competition for the flagging Cottonwood Mall, but rather as a complement.

A recent study concluded the area could not be redeveloped without some form of subsidy, which Fitts says the council will consider. Rents for existing merchants may also spike, but city officials expect the increase in business will provide compensation.

Meantime, city planners are gambling that current Holladay Village Center tenants can upgrade their buildings without going out of business. That overhaul is targeted for next spring.

Hanks says he likes the city's direction, but wonders if potential builders will play by the new rules.

"Are those standards going to change for a developer?" he asks. "I think that's what makes us all uneasy."

djensen@sltrib.com