Salt Lake City has put a small but decisive chunk of cash toward building an additional downtown TRAX station, one that has been envisioned for more than 20 years.
With Tuesday’s approval of a $38,901 budget change — on top of other city spending and sizable contributions from private developers — officials with the city’s Redevelopment Agency say they are ready to ink a contract with Utah Transit Authority on building the new $2 million station at about 650 S. Main.
If all goes according to city and UTA plans, the TRAX stop will open roughly a year from now amid rapid downtown growth.
To be located two blocks south of UTA’s Courthouse Station and four blocks from a station at 900 S. 200 West, the station was part of the original 1997 plans for a TRAX network across Utah’s capital before the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Rails were laid along that north-south Main Street corridor at the time, but the station remained on hold over the decades while UTA waited for nearby properties to be developed, city documents indicate.
Now, in a significant southward extension of the urban core, developers are building aggressively in that south-central downtown neighborhood, with at least five major office and residential projects proposed or underway nearby.
And recognizing the financial potential of thousands of TRAX passengers flowing through the area daily, those developers appear willing to pay up to $1.36 million to make the station happen.
RDA Chief Operating Officer Danny Walz said the station also will be “a huge benefit to anyone who develops after the fact.”
Patrinely Group, headquartered in Houston, is putting up a 10-story office tower it has dubbed “650 Main” on that southwest corner of Main Street and 600 South near where the station will go, with 320,000 square feet of new space spread over large floor plans and ground floor outlets for retailers.
A spokeswoman for Patrinely has said the site’s proximity to mass transit was a major draw for the company, which began construction in July. Patrinely has also floated plans for a second adjoining 10-story office tower to be built on the same block, facing the street at 645 S. West Temple.
A Salt Lake City-based firm called Lowe Property Group is building an upscale 170-unit apartment complex at 611 S. Main, east of the station site, also with ground floor retail spaces, in a project dubbed “6th & Main.”
Lowe Property Group is also a development partner in a blockwide, a $144 million residential and commercial project known as the Post District, located around 500 South and 600 South between 300 West and 400 West.
PEG Cos., headquartered in Provo, has broken ground on an apartment complex called “SevenO2 Main,” at 702 S. Main, with up to 241 high-end apartments and a sizable parking structure. That firm is behind several other projects underway across the city, including Paperbox Lofts, a 195-unit apartment complex with affordable units it is building at about 340 W. 200 South, in partnership with the RDA.
Two Utah companies, Colmena Group and Kimball Investments, are pressing plans for a large apartment development called “The Jetty,” with an initial phase to be anchored at 800 South and State Street.
That development, which is under review by city planners, could bring up to 300 new apartments to be rented at market rates, built on what is referred to as the Sears Block, site of a now-vacated Sears store.
Patrinely, Lowe Property Group and PEG Cos. have already committed to chipping in a total of $571,498 to help build and open the TRAX station, according to Walz.
City officials, he added, intend to pursue added payments worth $788,901 from Colmena and Patrinely, tied to its second phase of 650 Main.
The $38,901 in RDA cash approved Tuesday puts enough money in place to allow work on the station to proceed while the RDA seeks those additional payments. The Salt Lake City Council, in its role as the RDA’s governing board, tentatively endorsed drawing that cash from accounts intended for urban renewal along State Street.
The developers’ contributions are being calculated based on the size of their property and proximity to the station, according to Cara Lindsley, RDA project coordinator.
The budget change drew a 5-1 vote in support from the RDA board, with Councilman Darin Mano the lone opposing vote, saying he feared the city might not be able to secure those added payments. Councilman Andrew Johnston shared the concerns but reluctantly backed the move. Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros was absent.
Meanwhile, UTA ramped up formal design of the new TRAX stop in August, paid for with $300,000 out of Salt Lake City’s $639,601 total share of the station’s costs, money the RDA board set aside for it in 2019.
Lindsley and Walz said the station’s design could be completed in time to be put out to bid by early spring, with construction to start later next year and completion set for mid-December 2021.
The new TRAX station will be similar in design to the one at 900 South, built in 2005. Its construction will include a midblock crosswalk at about 660 S. Main, city documents indicate.
UTA will ultimately manage bidding and construction and be responsible for the station’s ongoing operation and maintenance.
Mary DeLoretto, UTA acting chief service development officer, said in July the new station is not expected to affect TRAX schedules or require the purchase of additional train cars.