Community worries this former SLC market is becoming a magnet for problems

Glendale Townhomes will occupy the old Tejeda’s Market land, but construction is delayed.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tejeda's Market in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. The store is now closed, and the site is awaiting redevelopment.

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The shell of Tejeda’s Market is all that remains of the once popular neighborhood shop within walking distance for Glendale residents.

The building at 1179 S. Navajo St. on Salt Lake City’s west side had to make way for more homes.

Neighbors saw Tejeda’s lights turn off and a chain enclose its parking lot. They then waited to see crews break ground on the new residential development.

They’re still waiting — and will be for at least another year.

The Salt Lake City planning commission has approved a request for a 12-month extension from Axis Architects to submit complete building plans for its two-acre Glendale Townhomes project as the site undergoes an environmental assessment.

While those details are being finalized, the plot still houses Tejeda’s former building, and some residents worry the area could become a magnet for other issues.

“It’s starting to become a real problem,” Turner Bitton, chair of the Glendale Neighborhood Council, warned. “It’s just sitting empty, and over the summer there was a break in the water and there was some flooding that happened there. I’m afraid that the longer that it sits empty, the more likely we’re going to have vandalism or maybe a fire.”

Bitton asked the city to make the extension conditional to the existing building’s demolition, but that request fell outside of the city’s authority.

Though there was no mention of demolition plans, the developers are taking other measures to mitigate the impact.

“We have secured the buildings after multiple break-ins and subsequent efforts to weld doors shut,” Pierre Langue, a principal at Axis Architects, wrote in an email. “We also installed steel bollards to restrict vehicular access to authorized vehicles only to prevent people from driving to the back of the building and dumping trash.”

Langue’s team needed more time to perform the due diligence and designs for the property, he said. The project is moving forward, developers added, and is expected to become another housing alternative in the city’s high-demand market.

Still, neighbors worry about what could happen in the next year and would like to see the building razed before the new February 2024 filing deadline.

“I hope,” Bitton said, “that the yearlong extension doesn’t mean that we’re just going to have an empty building sitting there, getting beaten up and torn to pieces and kind of falling into disrepair.”

About the new housing project

(Axis Architects) Rendering of the Glendale Townhomes project. The modern buildings would feature facades of brick, wood siding, glass and stucco.

Plans for the Glendale Townhomes call for eight buildings with 57, trilevel town houses with internal garages. After discussions with community members, who mourned the loss of a commercial option in the neighborhood, Axis Architects dedicated live/work options to 24 units.

The firm also plans to include a community garden, playground and pickleball courts that would be open to area residents.

The complex would sit in one of Glendale’s most important intersections. In peak hours, hundreds of families pick up their kids at the nearby Dual Immersion Academy, commuters hop on and off a main bus line, and others visit a nearby senior housing complex.

As developers set their sights on transforming other commercial establishments into housing, the community is torn about the future.

“We’re increasing our population, which I think helps strengthen our neighborhood in a lot of ways, but we’re also losing those commercial opportunities, which is concerning because we have so few of them,” Bitton said. “And I really see this as pretty indicative of what’s happening citywide — that we have pretty rapid development, and what we really need to be doing is incentivizing mixed use.”

More worries about gentrification

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tejeda's Market in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

From its inception, the Glendale Townhomes project has been controversial not only for removing a popular store but also for fear it could further gentrify the area.

“How much does it cost a month?” nearby Poplar Grove resident Gilberto Rejon asked. “I mean, they are gently and slowly pushing the people out of here. I’ve been displaced a few times living here.”

For Rejon, seeing the property sitting inactive for a year is a reminder of how out of reach projects like this can be for neighbors.

“They have so much money,” he said, “that they could put that on hold for a year.”

When the project was last discussed at the planning commission, some neighbors spoke in opposition. The community posted flyers pleading to save Tejeda’s Market, but its owner had opted to close and sell the property.

The loss of a market did not sit well with residents in a neighborhood plagued by high volumes of food insecurity.

“The reason that a place like Tejeda’s in the first place would look at closing,” Bitton said, “is because we don’t have the population density in our neighborhood that we need to really sustain commercial opportunities like multiple grocery stores or restaurants or different things like that.”

Bitton hopes the project’s planned live/work units will help bring desired businesses such as bodegas, coffee shops and barbershops.

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.