Utah picks a key partner on its massive ‘The Point’ development at former prison site in Draper

A consortium of firms will help launch the first phase of developing 600 acres of state-owned land — with new housing, an innovation district and a network of trails and green spaces along the Jordan River.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) State and local officials announce their selection of a development partner for Phase I at The Point during a press event at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. The 600 acres state-owned property is at the site of the soon-to-be-vacated Utah State Prison in Draper.

In what has been dubbed the economic opportunity of a lifetime, Utah officials announced their choice Tuesday of a collection of developers called Lincoln-Colmena-Wadsworth as its chief partner for The Point, the huge development planned at the soon-to-be-vacated site of Utah State Prison in Draper.

The consortium, also known as Innovation Point Partners, beat out two other competitors on a shortlist: a partnership of Utah-based Boyer Company, Gardner Development and The Larry H. Miller Company, and an Oakland-based firm called Catellus Development Corp.

The three had been vying to make real the initial 78-acre phase of the state’s carefully crafted vision for a model mixed-used development across the publicly-owned land, considered some of Utah’s hottest real estate.

The chosen group is made up of: Lincoln Property Company, with headquarters in Dallas; Colmena Group of Salt Lake City; and Wadsworth Development Group in Draper.

(Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, via Point of the Mountain State Land Authority) A bird's eye view of The Point, a Utah-backed housing and economic development project proposed on 600 state-owned acres at Point of the Mountain in Draper. The land is to be vacated by Utah State Prison when that facility is moved to Salt Lake City sometime in 2022.

Under a motion passed Tuesday by the state Point of the Mountain Land Authority, the consortium will now enter negotiations on a master agreement, officials said, intended to govern the state project worth billions of dollars and dubbed the largest and most significant development in Utah history.

And if that agreement is reached, the group will forge ahead on building The Point’s core district over 78 acres — and anticipated catalyst for growth on 20,000 acres of surrounding land — to be called The Hub, officials said.

That first phase is centered at Point of the Mountain — located between rapidly growing Salt Lake and Utah counties — along Interstate 15, and also at the heart of what is called Silicon Slopes, the state’s burgeoning technology sector and home to scores of well-established and startup companies.

Initial work on The Hub will build out a core of what officials are calling “attainable housing” as well as a business innovation center and a network of roads, parks and trails in what is to be a first phase leading to future waves of construction likely to span at least a decade.

‘Innovation, community centric’ — and massive

Abbey Ehman, vice president with Lincoln Property Company and spokesperson for the consortium, said the project “represents the single largest development site in the country in recent years,” adding that the team was honored to be chosen.

Ehman said Innovation Point Partners planned “to deliver an innovative, community-centric development that leverages sustainable, transit-oriented solutions and celebrates the area’s natural beauty and wealth of outdoor opportunities.”

“We are committed to Utah for the long-term,” she said, “and look forward to strengthening our relationships in the community.”

The Point is also expected to offer a world-class showcase for sustainable growth as Utah continues to expand with new residents, its own record-breaking population increases and a historic surge in housing demand.

It is also supposed to yield a mixed-use development using what have been called “smart growth” principles, namely, blending residential and commercial land use with state-of-the-art approaches to transportation and ample open spaces, according to a state plan nearly 10 years in the making.

Alan Matheson, executive director of The Point, said the choice of Innovation Point Partners grew from “a rigorous, months-long competitive process that engaged qualified firms from across the country.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alan Matheson, The Point Executive Director, is joined by state and local officials as they announce their selection of a development partner for Phase I at The Point during a press event at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

The developers’ “extensive experience, technical expertise, and passion for The Point uniquely positions them to support development that will directly improve Utahns’ quality of life for decades to come,” Matheson said.

How the selection unfolded

Eight members of the Point of the Mountain Land Authority voted Tuesday in favor of selecting Lincoln-Colmena-Wadsworth, with Jim Russell, board member and director of the Division of Facilities Construction & Management, the lone vote in opposition.

Reached via email by The Salt Lake Tribune, Russell said his vote reflected “a difference of opinion” over the ranking order among the three finalists “and not of the abilities of the firms or the process going forward.”

“We prioritized all three and all are extremely qualified,” he added. “We will be fortunate to work with any of the three firms.”

Dan Hemmert, another land authority board member and former state senator who is now executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, recused himself from Tuesday’s 8-to-1 vote, citing prior dealings unrelated to The Point with two of the three firms on the shortlist.

Other board members — including Draper Mayor Troy Walker, who said he had spent much of his 14 years in city politics working on the development — offered praise for the selection process and their enthusiasm for what The Point could mean for generations of Utahns and their quality of life.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Draper Mayor Troy Walker joins other state and local officials as they announce their selection of a development partner for Phase I at The Point during a press event at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

“This is the opportunity. This is the future,” Walker said. The goal with The Point, he said, “is to provide you, our citizens, our future, our children with the ability to move, work and play and not always have to be in your car. It is our goal that this will not be a place where the car is king. This will be a place where transit can be the king.”

After years of consultation and public input, The Point is designed to be what officials call “a 15-minute city,” accessible to Utahns from all income levels and designed to maximize its potential value to the state’s tax base and economy.

The development project is to include copious shares of affordable housing and an advanced innovation center driven by area universities to spur economic growth and new jobs, along with a sophisticated mass transit system and a network of parks and regional trails adjacent to the Jordan River.

Officials revealed new details Tuesday on The Hub, saying it will make pedestrians and walkability a priority, in keeping with extensive planning work on the project. It will also focus on a central park and transit-oriented development throughout to get people out of their automobiles and will feature a mix of job centers and housing, with retail, shopping and entertainment.

Officials have said the project will be guided by the central themes of community, multimodal transportation, economic opportunity, innovation, sustainability and collaboration.

Collaboration, public input will be key

One leader on the Land Authority also said the project would be developed in cooperation with local and national experts following the contours of what has been called “the Utah way,” a moniker for collaboration between the public and private sectors.

State officials, meanwhile, celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late June at the state’s new prison following six years and $1 billion of work on the new 200-acre facility, located five miles west of Salt Lake City International Airport.

Inmates will soon begin migrating north to the new facility and the old prison, built in the 1950s, will be demolished, save for an historic prison chapel set aside for preservation.

(Courtesy of The Point of the Mountain Land Authority) A map of The Hub, a 789-acre district proposed for the center of The Point, a 600-acre development planned at the former site of Utah State Prison in Draper.

With Tuesday’s selection, based on complex scoring of as many as nine firms in the running at one time, the state will now begin work on a master development agreement with Innovation Point Partners, with no specific timeline for completion. Officials said the first phase of the project would give way to additional selection processes to hire partners for additional phases.

If talks with Innovation Point Partners fall through, officials on a subcommittee of the Land Authority said they will move on to the Boyer-Gardner-Miller consortium, considered a powerhouse of development in Utah, and then subsequently to Catellus Group.

State Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, praised all participants and bidders in the selection, which drew on one of the most extensive public input processes in state history spanning over the last two years. The Land Authority had sought bids from developers since December, with final vetting in late spring and early summer.

“This land is owned by all Utahns,” Snow said, “so we look forward to working with the public and our development partner to ensure The Point’s unique heritage and promising future are well-represented in everything we do.”

Matheson said the state will be launching a statewide survey for ideas on the design of a special central feature in The Point development to represent Utah’s identity and values.

That survey can be found at bit.ly/focalpointsurvey and will be open until August 31, with results to be used to help create an iconic feature to be built the project’s core, to be called “The Focal Point.”