Outcry against Cottonwood Mall site proposal diminishes as revised plan faces an open house

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) View from the north looking south of the old Macy's building at the old Cottonwood Mall site near 4800 S. Highland Drive in Holladay on Tuesday March 13, 2018. It's the last remaing building on the property.

Holladay • There was no cheering or jeering last week when a revamped plan for the Cottonwood Mall site was delivered to the Holladay City Council, unlike the reception the original proposal received in November upon debuting before the city Planning Commission.

Back then, people were in a fighting mood because they didn’t like what they’d heard about the Ivory Homes/Woodbury Corp. proposal for a residential-heavy development with a 136-foot-tall office tower. And they were angry when they couldn’t get into the Planning Commission’s cramped City Hall quarters because so many of their equally concerned neighbors had turned out as well.

But last Thursday in the more spacious confines of the Bonneville Junior High School auditorium, a crowd that filled one-fourth of its seats listened quietly as the developers outlined changes they’d made after the prior plan drew a negative Planning Commission recommendation.

Nearly an hour later, as council members began a sedate question-and-answer session with the developers (both seated onstage), many of the spectators began quietly slipping out of the auditorium. Only two dozen remained as the evening wound down.

Rather than voicing anxieties about the direction the developers were going, initial council queries poked around at nuts-and-bolts details of the plan for the 57-acre site: What about parking? How far are the buildings from Murray-Holladay Road and Highland Drive? How wide is the 1.2-mile trail that will be built around its perimeter? Wide enough for walkers and bikers?

Residents will get a chance to ask more questions from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday when an open house on the project will be held at City Hall, 4580 S. 2300 East. City officials and a number of representatives for the developers will be available to provide answers.

Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle said he was pleased the city finally had a formal proposal to invigorate the weed-covered parcel, noting that in his 4.5-year tenure as mayor, “I would not get through a day without someone asking me what’s going on with the Cottonwood Mall site. This has been the No. 1 issue in the city for 10 years — and probably longer than that.”

“It’s good to have this debate about what’s appropriate on the old mall site,” he added.

On Thursday, homebuilder Clark Ivory told the council and the crowd that he followed his father’s advice to “just keep trying” and made eight major changes to respond to concerns previously expressed by residents and the Planning Commission.

He and office builder Jeff Woodbury told how they had pulled back on the 136-foot building request, saying Woodbury’s company was refining a way to design a creative configuration of 90-foot structures that might fulfill the primary goal: enticing a big-name corporate client to establish a headquarters office there.

Housing density was reduced as well, with 236 fewer apartment units and 28 fewer single-family homes, leaving 79 overall, all on larger lots. The new plan also adds some multistory luxury condominiums.

More restaurants and commercial space are contemplated than before, Woodbury said, and a heavy emphasis will be placed on holding events there on a regular basis.

“We’re expecting more locally oriented tenants than chains,” he added. “We’ve had greater success with them in other commercial centers we’re developing.”

If the developers can obtain city approval this spring, Ivory said the project will begin with a big party to demolish the deteriorating shells of the buildings that once were a TGIF restaurant and a Macy’s department store on the parcel’s north end.

“Everybody can break a window,” Woodbury pitched in, before work begins installing infrastructure for phase one, which would entail laying foundations for the mixture of office buildings, restaurants and residential units that would stretch along Highland Drive and curve up to the east along Arbor Lane.

The first homes in that phase could be delivered at the end of 2019, Ivory said. The first of the bigger office buildings would be ready a year or so after that, Woodbury added.

Holladay has scheduled public hearings April 5 and 12 on the proposal.

Cottonwood Mall site open house<br>Holladay residents will have the opportunity to ask questions about the new Ivory Homes/Woodbury Corp. proposal for a residential/business development. City officials and a number of representatives for the developers will be available to provide answers.<br>When • Tuesday, 4-8 p.m.<br>Where • Holladay City Hall, 4580 S. 2300 East