At Utah’s old prison site, the public wants parks, transit and housing

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) A flock of geese fly over the Utah State Prison as the Oquirrh Mountains are lit up by the rising sun on Wed. Sept. 19, 2018.

Utahns want the state prison site in Draper transformed into a vibrant community that generates jobs and offers access to mass transit and new parks and trails.

Newly released survey findings on the Point of the Mountain also indicate residents want the 700 acres of soon-to-be-vacated land to be developed in a sustainable way that doesn’t worsen air pollution.

In mid-September, state officials announced they were stepping up planning for what may be the most valuable piece of real estate in Utah right now. They have enlisted hundreds of experts in five working groups to study the plan and are poised to hire consultants to write a master document for land use at what they are now calling “The Point.”

The state Point of the Mountain State Land Authority will now add input from nearly 2,838 residents who were part of a month-long poll on the site’s future uses. The panel of government officials aims to complete its master plan sometime next year, in advance of the prison being relocated to the western fringes of Salt Lake City and the old buildings in Draper being razed in 2022.

The public vision, it turns out, matches closely what many state leaders already had in mind.

“We are encouraged to see that the input we received from the thousands of Utahns who participated in this survey is consistent with our vision,” The Point Executive Director Alan Matheson said in a statement.

Participants said bettering air quality, protecting the environment and enhancing mobility through the area were of high importance. The public also wants development of The Point — perched next to Interstate 15 in a corridor rife with new technology companies — to make creating parks a high priority, according to poll results.

A sizable majority of survey participants said The Point should feature a system of interconnected parks, open spaces and trails to connect residents with recreational opportunities.

The project should also bring new housing, the survey found, along with commercial centers near to where residents work in order to reduce traffic. And it should also have the types of housing that best match the needs of people who will live there, the poll found.

The public also likes the idea of creating a commercial district, devoted to innovation that boosts the state economy, the survey found.

Poll questions did not ask about preserving portions of the existing 70-year-old prison, though the idea is being pursued by historic preservationists, longtime Draper residents, former prison workers and advocates for inmates. Dozens of comments submitted along with the poll, however, cited preservation as a goal.

“This is such an amazing opportunity to preserve an important piece of Utah history,” one commenter wrote — although a few referred to the prison as an eyesore that needed to be demolished outright.

Officials with the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority said they had issued requests to three world-renown planning firms for more information, out of 12 that had submitted proposals to help write The Point master plan. One will be hired by the end of the year, they said.