Rocky Mountain Power is taking initial public steps toward a decadelong development to turn as many as 100 acres around its main offices and power stacks along Salt Lake City’s North Temple into a green, revitalized corporate campus and transit-oriented neighborhood.
The regional utility calls the ambitious project its “Power District Campus” and plans to start with construction of a new all-electric office headquarters to replace the old one, along with a parking garage and data center near where North Temple meets the Jordan River.
The new headquarters, intended to serve about 700 Rocky Mountain Power employees, is viewed as the “inaugural phase” of what is likely to be several waves of infill redevelopment over the largely industrial land, located between the burgeoning downtown and Salt Lake City International Airport.
The utility, a subsidiary of Portland-based PacifiCorp, intends its healthier and more-efficient office complex “to be the foundation of catalytic development,” leading to “a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood” that is “a destination for community, business, recreation and leisure.”
Rocky Mountain Power is seeking an initial zoning change to build the new facilities on about 5.5 acres south of North Temple, near its existing offices at 1407 W. North Temple, built in 1955 and now “near the end of their useful life,” according to the company.
If plans come to fruition, that will, in turn, give way to a regional development in a rapidly growing capital city short on available land.
The project is likely to have a considerable impact on the west side. The Poplar Grove, Fairpark and Jordan Meadows community councils have been invited to submit public comments on the initial zoning proposal, with a deadline set for late August.
Esther Stowell, head of the Poplar Grove Community Council, whose boundaries encompass the site, said the type of zoning Rocky Mountain Power is seeking already has helped spur rapid growth in the area.
“Development has been moving west,” Stowell said, calling the utility’s plan “a welcomed addition to the type of growth we wish to see in Poplar Grove.”
City officials could take up the zoning change as early as this fall.
North Temple is growing fast
Specific site plans are still being developed, according to a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson, but highlights revealed to prospective developers in late 2020 include ample green spaces and expanded access to the river, along with retail and dining outlets and “places for gathering.”
The utility also recently confirmed that new homes are planned to be part of that overall development mix, with company workers deployed at the new offices in mind. No numbers are being released as yet on the number nor pricing of residential units, though a spokesperson said it would be multifamily housing.
How rapidly the Power District Campus unfolds will also be decided by the decommissioning of its nearly 70-year-old gas-fired Gadsby Power Plant at approximately 1300 West along North Temple, with its three distinct and towering stacks. According to the company’s latest assessment, which is updated every two years, the plant’s retirement is set for 2032. That could change, based on regulatory rules, market conditions and other financial implications.
Some renderings of the Power District Campus include the stacks.
The energy firm’s plans come into sharper focus as the North Temple corridor is seeing an eruption of residential and commercial development, much of it fueled by special tax breaks afforded to the neighborhood and other lower-income parts of the city through their designation in 2017 as federal “opportunity zones.”
A six-story, 200-apartment complex is already going in directly across North Temple from the Rocky Mountain Power land, at about 1420 W. North Temple. That housing and retail project, called SPARK!, is being built by Chicago-based Brinshore Development, in partnership with the city’s Redevelopment Agency, at the former site of the Overnighter Motel.
Up to 80% of its units are proposed to be rent-subsidized, under Brinshore’s deal with the RDA.
In May, state officials released a new master plan for the Utah State Fairpark, just to the north of Rocky Mountain Power’s site. That new vision for the site of Utah’s yearly state fair calls for nearly 15 years of new mixed-use development at the 65-acre locale, including substantial upgrades to exhibition halls and an infusion of housing.
Rocky Mountain Power “has been an integral part of Salt Lake City and its west-side community since it began generating electricity on the company’s North Temple site nearly a century ago,” according to new filings on its project with city planners.
The new headquarters anchoring its development will be healthier, more efficient and will demonstrate the firm’s values on sustainability as well as its “long-term commitment to this site and the community.”
Its main goal, the utility said, is replacing its existing facilities “in a manner that maximizes customer, community and shareholder benefit” while letting the rest of the 100-acre site to be developed to offset the company’s construction costs.
Jordan River refresh, transit amenities
Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Tiffany Erickson said GIV Communities, a Salt Lake City developer with a focus on sustainability and public-private partnerships, is representing the utility as a consultant on its design process, rezoning request and in reviewing prospective bids on future construction.
The utility is going this route after a previous vetting process for prospective developers, launched in late 2020, proved inconclusive.
The latest proposed rezoning south of its existing facilities along North Temple will bring the land into closer harmony with the city’s plans for parcels around nearby TRAX stations, according to its application to the city.
Once the new facilities are built and the old ones torn down, opening up that land directly on North Temple to future builders, the company said, will “create unexpected opportunity for additional mixed uses, pedestrian-focused development, and much needed amenities” along that corridor.
Initial maps offered by Rocky Mountain Power in its filings also set aside a portion of the acreage targeted for rezoning for use as an ample park space adjacent to the Jordan River, while also envisioning a sizable riverfront for the new corporate offices.
Erickson confirmed the company’s plans envision a significant refresh of that stretch of the river.
“It’s right in our backyard,” she said, “and we would like to capitalize on that and be good stewards.” The utility has told planners it “looks forward” to working with the city on ways to improve access and use of the Jordan River.
In one of its initial steps in the project, the company wants to convert zoning on portions of four properties south of its existing offices and the state liquor store at 1255 W. North Temple, switching the land from light manufacturing to a special transit zoning.
That change to so-called urban center transit zoning — reflecting the area’s proximity to the North Temple TRAX green line stretching out to the airport — would let developers acting on the firm’s behalf put up taller, more compact buildings, Erickson explained, and design those new facilities more efficiently in tandem with a series of pedestrian walkways and the new park along the river.
As the zoning change makes its way to review by the Salt Lake City Council — possibly this fall — Erickson said that Rocky Mountain Power had hired Salt Lake City-based FFKR Architects to develop building designs and a master plan for the site, with those expected in September.