Shovels turn — again — at SLC’s village of tiny homes as project leaders stay positive

On Tuesday morning, leaders of The Other Side Village hosted a ceremony kicking off construction of a community center in the planned tiny-house neighborhood.

For the second time since March of last year, leaders of The Other Side Village have broken ground on the tiny-home neighborhood for formerly homeless Utahns.

This time, the ceremonial groundbreaking at a former Salt Lake City-owned landfill near Indiana Avenue and Redwood Road launched construction of a shared gathering space for the village’s first residents — whenever they arrive.

In speeches before shovels excavated little piles of dirt, project leaders shared energy and passion for the planned neighborhood, which, despite being in the works for years, has yet to install a single home.

Joseph Grenny, chair of The Other Side Academy’s board, said his organization wasn’t on the west side Tuesday to ask for something. Instead, he said, the village had something to offer.

“These [future residents] will be starting, in a number of months, one of the most-visited sites in Salt Lake City in years to come,” he said. “The reason it will be most-visited is because for everybody who crosses our threshold, it offers the promise of hope for each of us. No matter how low our low becomes, there’s always something better that’s possible when we’re surrounded by a community that helps make it happen.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Joseph Grenny at the groundbreaking for one of The Other Side Village's community pavilions in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

Grenny and others were celebrating breaking ground on one of the planned community’s pavilions — small community centers where residents will be able to gather outside of their tiny homes.

Leaders’ positivity comes after extensive delays to the project, and in the wake of other advocates for homeless Utahns expressing skepticism about the village and its ability to decrease the number of people sleeping on the streets.

The planned pavilions — there will be several on the property — will each serve 25 to 30 homes.

Heather Deuel, an estimator with Big-D Construction, the company building the first pavilion, said the structures will be an extension of the homes that will someday occupy the site, “inviting all to come and enjoy life as a community.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The groundbreaking for one of The Other Side Village's community pavilions in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

The pavilions will be mostly open, flexible meeting spaces of about 2,200 square feet. They will also have restrooms, laundry facilities and a space to warm up meals. The centers could be used for community meetings, but also for playing cards and watching sports.

The village has been promised for years. In 2022, it secured a lease of the landfill site for a buck a year with the help of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

Project leaders have blamed delays on, among other things, environmental remediation and labor shortages. Those environmental remediation issues persisted Tuesday, when officials said they were still looking for additional clean soil for the formerly contaminated site.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Other Side Village under construction in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

Despite the overall project’s hiccups, one aspect of the village has come on line. Last month, The Other Side Donuts, which employs many of the property’s future residents, opened around the corner from the planned neighborhood as a part of the village’s prep school curriculum.

The pavilion that officials began working on Tuesday is set to be done by December, and the first homes are ready to be placed as soon as the village gets the nod from Salt Lake City, according to project leaders.

On Wednesday, Andrew Wittenberg, a spokesperson for Mendenhall, said “there’s nothing the city is requiring right now that would create a pause before homes are placed.”