A big development is opening in Herriman this year. What will it feature?

Auto mall expects to include dealerships for cars, boats and RVs, but is this project the best use for so much valuable space?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new auto mall project under construction in Herriman on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Soon, car buyers in southwestern Salt Lake County no longer will have to drive to, say, Sandy, Murray or downtown Salt Lake City to shop in person for a vehicle.

Herriman plans to start rolling out dealerships later this year.

After years of work — and the creation of a special zoning district — the fast-growing suburban city is setting up an auto mall on around 60 acres along the Mountain View Corridor between Midas Creek and Herriman Boulevard (12600 South).

The plans are not definitive yet, but there’s space for about 14 dealerships. The developer’s vision focuses on businesses that sell used and new cars, boats, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, among others.

“Herriman has a great population base. They earn well, they buy a lot of cars, and they have to go somewhere else to buy them, so the tax base goes somewhere else,” Larry Myler, partner at Herriman 73 Partners, said. “So this way, they can stay here and have a relationship with a dealer, and they can get their cars serviced locally instead of dragging again down to I-15.”

Though weather delayed the grading process, crews have begun working on the auto mall, and the first dealerships are expected to open this year.

Myler said two auto dealers and a boat and RV dealership already have signed on.

In addition to the parcels dedicated to dealerships, developers are including spaces for other types of businesses. Retailers such as car washes, restaurants and soda shops already are popping up as well. The idea is to add commerce that would complement the auto mall.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The mushrooming city also has ruled out high-density housing in this special district, and it may bar churches and schools there as well.

Herriman owns or has owned significant chunks of the property, which gives it control over what the area will contain. Herriman 73 Partners is expected to buy all the property eventually in the auto mall district.

Community challenges

Some parcels in the development will have commercial purposes while allowing special uses, like show space and storage to support the auto mall. These are the pieces that would be the closest to homes.

Some residents who live near the development expressed concerns about the effects that the new buildings would have on their properties. So the city and the developers reached an agreement to mitigate those impacts.

“Lighting was obviously a big issue,” Herriman Assistant City Manager Tami Moody said. “And so we made sure that that was addressed so that you don’t have lights shining into people’s homes in the middle of the night.”

Apart from the lights, residents also voiced concerns about noise, landscaping buffers, traffic patterns and traffic studies.

Why an auto mall?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new auto mall project under construction in Herriman on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Because Herriman sits at the corner of the Salt Lake Valley and is not a thruway, it diminishes commercial and retail demand. That’s why a 2018 economy study suggested investing in nontraditional commercial offerings that could cater to a regional market.

Throughout the approval process for this project, the city has highlighted the importance of the sales tax revenue the development would attract and how it would help offset the costs of municipal services.

“It’s not that cities do everything focused on generating sales tax,” Moody said. “But this particular development will accomplish just that by bringing that much-needed sales tax to the community to assist the city through its community growth.”

Moody noted it also provides additional amenities and services to Herriman residents.

The area adjacent to the auto mall is also bound to change with another nearby development called Game Pointe, an entertainment center derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was set to include escape rooms, laser tag, bowling, virtual sport bays and arcades. Now developers plan to focus on restaurants, stores and offices.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quenchit is part of the new auto mall project in Herriman on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

The prospect of crafting a development geared toward pollution-creating cars certainly would run counter to what many wish to see built.

Big development projects also pose questions on whether their communities’ needs could be met without driving long distances, said Meisei Gonzalez, communications director for the environmental nonprofit HEAL Utah, and whether it would lead to more reliance on vehicles.

“We always push for incorporating mixed zoning, maybe it could be housing, a green space and also some sort of commercial business,” Gonzalez said. “But auto malls themselves and big-box stores in general just take up so much space that can kind of lead to bigger problems in the future.”

Before embarking on projects like an auto mall, Gonzalez said, cities should answer: Would auto malls stay afloat in the next decades? How much parking would it require in the future? Is there enough room for green spaces in the city? And is this kind of development the best for the community?

The Herriman developers insist that if there’s an ideal area to build a project like this, it is this one.

“Most developments bring traffic, and that’s not a good thing for citizens,” Myler said. “But the good thing about this project is that it’s right on Mountain View Corridor, so people don’t have to drive through neighborhoods to get to this location.”

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.