Spy Hop to get a new headquarters after several moves and years of ‘bursting at the seams’

(Renderings courtesy of Spy Hop / Bowen Studios). Salt Lake City-based youth media arts group Spy Hop and the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA) are to break ground Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, on a new 22,000-square-foot, three-story building at 208 W. 900 South. The Spy Hop Youth Media Arts Center will house Spy Hop’s offices, programming and classroom space, production facilities and a rooftop performing-arts venue.

An arts group for young people that fled its old building because of Salt Lake City’s homeless crisis in 2016 over safety concerns is getting a new permanent home.

Officials expect to break ground Friday on a sleek and fully equipped education center for Spy Hop in the city’s Central 9th neighborhood.

Organizers with the youth digital media arts group and the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA) will eventually fill a parking lot on the northwest corner of 200 West and 900 South with the new 22,000-square-foot headquarters.

The state-of-the-art center will house Spy Hop’s offices, multi-media classroom spaces, production studios, and a rooftop performance and community event venue, spread over three floors.

Kasandra VerBrugghen, Spy Hop’s executive director, said the group’s leaders have worked for years to raise funds to build the new facility, with backing from the RDA, the state of Utah and a variety of other community donors.

“We are thrilled that it is finally coming to fruition,” VerBrugghen said, adding it would allow Spy Hop programs to grow. “We’ve been bursting at the seams.”

Groundbreaking ceremonies will start at 11:30 a.m. Friday with an array of food trucks at the site, at 208 W. 900 South. Scheduled to speak are Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Councilwoman Amy Fowler, state Sen. Derek Kitchen and U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, as well as Spy Hop supporters and students.

Founded in 1999, Spy Hop mentors K-12 students in digital media arts — film, music, video games and more. It has been housed at 669 S. West Temple since leaving its former location in the city’s Rio Grande district, across the street from The Road Home shelter, in the summer of 2016.

Organizers at the time said shelter overcrowding and elevated levels of street crime made it unsafe for younger students and that parents had begun to pull their kids out of Spy Hop classes.

A year later, the neighborhood was the focus of Operation Rio Grande, a program of stepped-up police action to restore public safety. Some of the homeless were jailed in the city- and state-led campaign, while others were sent to medical and addiction treatment, then assisted with with job training, employment and housing.

Spy Hop’s new 0.4-acre site, located on a steadily developing stretch of the city’s 900 South corridor, falls within the RDA’s West Temple Gateway project area, designated for urban renewal since 1987.

The RDA, which owned the parking lot, remediated soil contamination and gave Spy Hop a $487,000 write-down on its purchase of the property. The Salt Lake City Council, in its role as the RDA’s governing board, also approved a $1 million loan for the project, on favorable terms.

Fowler, who currently chairs the RDA board, said in a statement that the facility would also boost businesses nearby, increase usage of the adjacent 900 South TRAX station and improve the flow of pedestrians in the neighborhood.

The nonprofit was selected for the project by the RDA through a competitive bidding process, in part for its longstanding focus on community building, officials said.

The facility has been designed by Atlas Architects of Salt Lake City and will be built by Okland Construction.

Construction is expected to completed in the summer of 2020.