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Work starts on Astra Tower, soon to be downtown Salt Lake City’s tallest skyscraper

After years of planning, crews break ground on a new luxury 372-apartment tower at 200 S. State Street as part of the city’s latest building boom.

(Rendering courtesy of Kensington Investment Company, via Jacobsen Construction) A rendered view of Salt Lake City's future skyline with the addition of Astra Tower, a new 372-unit luxury apartment complex being built at 200 S. State Street that will be Utah's tallest building, when it's completed in fall of 2024.

Undeterred by the resurgent pandemic, developers from Boston are pushing ahead with the construction of a new luxury residential building on State Street that is slated to be Salt Lake City’s tallest skyscraper.

Astra Tower will stand 450 feet high at its top point and bring 372 or so high-end apartments spread over 40 stories to the city’s growing downtown, according to the financial backers with Boston-based Kensington Investment Co., who launched the work Wednesday with a short groundbreaking ceremony.

The new tower initiated at 200 S. State St. — the former site of a Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurant and adjoining surface parking lot — is expected to be finished by October 2024.

(Rendering courtesy of Kensington Investment Company, via Jacobsen Construction) A rendered view looking west along 200 South of Astra Tower, a new 372-unit luxury apartment complex being built at 200 S. State Street that will be Utah's tallest building, when it's completed in fall of 2024.

The tower will be built to some of the world’s top environmental standards and joins at least a half-dozen new high-rise office and residential buildings in the works or now going up in Utah’s capital city, amid an unprecedented uptick in development along the Wasatch Front.

We have taken a dream and today, we turn it into a reality,” the privately held firm’s CEO Ed Lewis said. Astra Tower faced “several obstacles” over the past three years — even taunts that the project was “foolish or a little crazy,” Lewis said, “and perhaps they’re right.”

“Either way, Utah is our home. We’re not going anywhere,” Lewis told several dozen folks who gathered in advance at the Gallivan Center. Salt Lake City is quickly becoming a world-class city, and I believe the tower will be the future of apartment living in Utah.”

Astra Tower has been designed by HKS, a Dallas-based architectural firm with offices in Salt Lake City, bears a resemblance to The Kensington, an apartment tower built by the same developer in Boston in 2013.

Salt Lake City’s latest high-rise of luxury studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments — likely to reach the city’s upper echelons on monthly rents — will be capped by two floors of exclusive penthouses, served by a dedicated high-speed elevator.

Other top-flight amenities in Astra Tower will be spread over three separate floors, according to blueprints approved at City Hall, and are to include a rooftop swimming pool, clubhouse, park, sky lounge and a terrace with panoramic views.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A groundbreaking ceremony takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, for Astra Tower, a 372-unit luxury residential tower to rise at 200 S. State Street in Salt Lake City. It'll be Utah's tallest building, constructed to new city sustainability standards and is expected to open in fall of 2024.

Joined by other city and state officials, Salt Lake City Council member Ana Valdemoros praised the company’s decision to build to a LEED Gold standard, a U.S. Green Building Council-certified approach to sustainability that, among other things, will lower the project’s energy use and carbon footprint.

Valdemoros said the skyscraper project was emblematic of downtown’s new and “inevitable” direction in urban planning, toward denser housing and vertical construction. Astra, she said, advanced a long-held vision for “a walkable downtown with taller buildings and more vibrant streets filled with new residents.”

And at its planned height, Astra is set to exceed the existing Wells Fargo Center (422 feet) and the LDS Church Office Building (420 feet) as the city’s tallest building. It joins the newly constructed tower called 95 State Street at City Creek, a 395-foot office building at 100 South and State State, west of the downtown Harmons Grocery.

Just two blocks away, the new 700-room Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City — Salt Lake County’s new convention center hotel at West Temple and 200 South — reached its full height of 375 feet in November and is set to open in fall 2022.

Renderings indicate Salt Lake City’s latest skyscraper — referred to in recent years as the Kensington Tower until Wednesday’s official renaming to Astra Tower — will have a sleek rectangular exterior clad in glass and a two-story lobby facing onto State Street.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A cleared patch of land is pictured in May of 2021, as it is readied for the new Astra Tower, a 372-unit luxury residential tower to rise at 200 S. State Street in Salt Lake City. A groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2021, marked the start for Utah's tallest building, constructed to new city sustainability standards and is expected to open in fall of 2024.

“Salt Lake City is in ascension: economically, socially, statistically,” said Dee Brewer, who heads the Salt Lake Chamber’s Downtown Alliance. He called Astra Tower “a remarkable indication of that ascension.”

Boosters for Utah said Astra Tower would boost the city’s ability to attract new professionals, companies and investors to Utah.

“It announces to them that we’ve arrived as a city,” said Stephanie Frohman, senior vice president with the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “We have not only the lifestyle, cultural and recreational opportunities that their talent is looking for but also the residential.”

Astra is also at least the sixth new skyscraper now being pursued in downtown Salt Lake City in the past three years — and one of four rising along a three-block stretch of State Street.

Other State Street projects include the 24-story luxury apartment tower called Liberty Sky, at 151 S. State St.; 95 State at City Creek, built by City Creek Reserve, a development arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and a two-tower residential project at 255 S. State by Chicago-based developer Brinshore, with financial support from the city’s Redevelopment Agency and other government agencies.

When completed, Astra Tower will also mark a milestone in luxury high-rise living for renters and is part of a wider apartment construction boom.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City's skyline is changing rapidly, with at least six skyscrapers going up and several high-profile multi-story apartment and office complex being built along its major streets.

Astra’s living units are likely to compete with nearby Liberty Sky, with its 272 high-end apartments and amenities, completed this year by The Boyer Co. and Cowboy Partners, both located in Utah. Studio apartments at Liberty Sky are currently listed at between $1,499 and $2,199 a month.

Texas-based developer Hines is also pursuing a new 31-story residential skyscraper a few blocks away at 150 S. Main, at the site of the historic Utah Theater, set for demolition. That 392-foot tower — called Main Street Apartments and backed by Houston-based Hines along with the city’s RDA — is to include 400 new dwellings with 40 more affordable, 355 at market rates and five penthouses, along with a sky lounge, other luxury features and an adjoining pocket park.

A development firm in New York, The Domain Cos., has also announced plans for a residential skyscraper of its own with 342 apartments at 370 S. West Temple, two blocks east of Pioneer Park and proposed to stand 26 stories tall.

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