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536 student dorms are planned to replace a Latter-day Saint chapel at the University of Utah

Ivory University House, proposed on South Campus Drive, would funnel proceeds to scholarships for “tens of thousands of students over the next century.”

(Image courtesy of the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation, via Salt Lake City) A rending of Ivory University House, a 536-bed student housing complex proposed at 1780 E. South Campus Drive at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

A proposed 536-bed University of Utah student housing project that would donate rental proceeds toward scholarships drew initial approval this week from Salt Lake City planners.

Ivory University House would bring four new residential buildings of four and five stories — with adjoining open spaces and parking — to the high-traffic intersection of South Campus Drive and Mario Capecchi Drive near the U. campus, a few blocks from the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

The project at about 1780 E. South Campus Drive would span 5.6 acres of about 31 acres owned at the site by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has agreed to raze a chapel at that corner and grant a 100-year ground lease for the hall, its backers said.

The housing development is being pursued as part of a partnership involving the U., the city, the LDS Church and the philanthropic Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation, its primary financier.

Officials with the foundation, dedicated to housing and education affordability, said net proceeds from the housing would fund a scholarship reserve to help first-generation college students and those forced to drop out due to financial hardship.

Foundation representative Scott Bates said the residential complex would bring much-needed housing near the campus “and create an innovative model to fund scholarships for tens of thousands of students over the next century.”

“This project,” Bates said, “is really about impacting students’ lives through innovative partners investing in their future.”

The dormitories are designed as an academic-focused environment, with single rooms to avoid “roommate drama,” a variety of shared common areas on each floor and two inner courtyards intended as secure outdoor gathering areas for students, added Ashley Hadfield, the project’s lead manager at the Ivory Foundation.

The site also is near a TRAX station and a five-minute walk from the U.’s George S. Eccles Student Life Center. Hadfield said city residents would also benefit from a reduction in daily student commuter traffic to and from campus and an expansion of the U.’s housing stock.

After hearing mostly receptive public comments Wednesday — including enthusiastic support from several top U. officials — the Planning Commission recommended the Salt Lake City Council approve a request to rezone the church-owned land, now devoted to institutional purposes, to allow for a residential project with mixed land uses.

In similarly unanimous votes, the commission backed treating the project as a planned development, which would allow for multiple residential buildings at the site and a waiver of rules that they all must face the street.

The commission also OK’d allowing the living quarters to be designed farther back from the sidewalk than city zoning usually permits. Those added setbacks, according to Hadfield, would let the project “save 27 beautiful trees along Mario Capecchi and South Campus Drive.”

Those changes, too, require a final council endorsement.

Lori McDonald, U. vice president for student affairs, said the school’s waiting list for on-campus housing swelled to a record 1,195 students this year, even as it opened a new 900-bed residential hall.

“We do know demand is growing,” McDonald said, “and we welcome opportunities for students to be close to campus in addition to our plans to expand housing.”

Editor’s note The Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation is a donor to The Salt Lake Tribune’s Innovation Lab.

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