Utah loses its go-to guy on the massive Point of the Mountain redevelopment

Alan Matheson is jumping to Rio Tinto Kennecott, so The Point will need a new point person as the state’s largest public redevelopment project begins to build.

Alan Matheson, executive director since 2019 of Utah’s huge public redevelopment at the Point of the Mountain, will leave the post at month’s end.

The 62-year-old longtime official in state government announced Wednesday in the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority’s newsletter he will depart July 31 to take a job managing land and water resources at Rio Tinto Kennecott.

“Working with so many of you on this project over the last five years has been a highlight of my professional career,” Matheson wrote of the ongoing $2.3 billion remake of the former state prison site in Draper, now known as The Point.

“This has been as difficult a decision as I have ever made,” he said in an interview Wednesday, adding, “I’ve had the real privilege and pleasure of working with a capable, engaged board and a really outstanding team on a world-class development opportunity that can make a difference for people.”

Matheson’s five-year tenure directing the land authority saw The Point move from legislative debate, extensive planning and demolition of the Utah State Prison to actual work on what will be the largest public redevelopment in state history, with likely effects lasting for decades.

He oversaw a sweeping public process drawing input from tens of thousands of Utahns to shape a vision for converting the prime state-owned land along Interstate 15 into a commercial, residential and research enclave described as “a 15-minute city.”

“The input from the public,” Matheson said, “has been the north star of this project. We’re really trying to do something that meets public values and will provide benefit for generations to come.”

Plans for the 600-plus acres now call for nearly 2.3 million square feet of high-end office space, as well as hotels, shopping districts, research facilities, entertainment venues, open spaces, an expansive network of trails and up to 3,300 new housing units, all with a focus on innovation and economic growth.

Trained as a lawyer and versed in land use planning from a prior stint heading Envision Utah, Matheson proved instrumental in clinching a detailed master plan for the site and negotiating a contract to hire the consortium of private-sector development partners that will launch The Point’s initial 100-acre phase and muster billions in investments.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alan Matheson, executive director of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority; Lance Bullen with Colmena Group; Kip Wadsworth, Wadsworth Development Group; and Patrick Gilligan, Lincoln Property Group sign an agreement for the first phase of redevelopment at The Point in Draper on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023.

The redevelopment is to have a significant environmental bent, which officials have said reflected Matheson’s influence flowing from his background as a former head of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The Point’s land use plans are infused with parks and green spaces, strategies for water conservation and alternative forms of transportation, along with a refresh for an adjoining stretch of the Jordan River.

With the old prison demolished as of August 2023 and foundational new construction on utility lines and other infrastructure at The Point underway, Matheson said he would continue to champion the project “as a key driver of economic development and quality of life in Utah.”

“I look forward,” he said, “to watching Utah’s innovation community rise from the ground.”

Matheson, who was also a senior environmental adviser to then-Gov. Gary Herbert, said he will go on to lead a team at Kennecott aimed at managing the mining company’s 90,000 acres and water rights centered on its operations in the Oquirrh Mountains.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rio Tinto Kennecott's Bingham Copper Mine on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

“What happens on that land will impact significantly the future of this valley and the state,” he said in the interview. “We want to do it right.”

Former state Rep. V. Lowry Snow, who has helped lead the land authority’s governing board since its inception and assisted in hiring Matheson, said “he will be sorely missed.

“I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Alan and my gratitude for his willingness to step up and take this position,” Snow said. “I will miss him personally as a friend, and the commission and the state of Utah will miss all of the skill and talent he’s brought to the job.”

Snow said the land authority would now launch “a robust process” to find his replacement.