Locals say Cottonwood Mall plans would ‘literally and figuratively cast a shadow over Holladay’

(Tribune file photo) A new plan to replace the once-groundbreaking Cottonwood Mall with a residential development, including 12-story high rises on the north end, was criticized extensively Tuesday by Holladay residents fearful of its impact on ther view of Mount Olympus.

Holladay • Too much height, too much density, too much traffic and not enough open space for all of the new residents the development would attract.

Those were the primary complaints an overflow crowd made repeatedly Tuesday night as Holladay residents turned out to lambaste a new plan to redevelop a 56-acre site at 4800 S. Highland Drive that for decades was home to the Cottonwood Mall.

“This plan is not Holladay,” said resident Ryan Steele, decrying the request by developers Ivory Homes and Woodbury Corp. to increase the potential maximum size of high-rise buildings in the new development to 136 feet, comparable to Intermountain Healthcare’s tower in Murray.

“The height is lunacy … these buildings would be tall for downtown Salt Lake City. These buildings will literally and figuratively cast a shadow over Holladay,” said Steele, a chemistry professor at the University of Utah. “I am challenging Ivory to do what I tell my students when an examination has gone catastrophically wrong — go home, do your homework and bring a reasonable effort next time.”

Officials for home builder Ivory Homes and mixed-use developer Woodbury Corp. believe they have done that with their proposal to modify an existing site development master plan for the property, which has sprouted weeds in the decade since former owner General Growth Partners tore down most of the mall in 2008.

Chris Gamvroulas and Clark Ivory from Ivory Homes told the city’s planning commission that they are “totally committed” to making the former mall site a source of pride for Holladay, one that will benefit other businesses around the intersection of Highland Drive and Murray-Holladay Road.

“I won’t be happy, as a Holladay resident, if my sons and grandsons can’t come back and see this place prospering,” Ivory said. He said the open-air mall, similar to The Gateway in Salt Lake City, envisioned in the previously approved master plan “wouldn’t have survived the test of time” as online shopping has changed the retail world.

Jeff Woodbury said the idea is to create a village that has enough residents to support the commercial outlets and office space contemplated for a couple of 12- to 13-story towers. Several other buildings on the property’s north end will step down “like a wedding cake” to four-story brownstones, two- to three-story townhouses and subdivisions of single family homes, he said.

In all, the development would have more than 1,000 apartments, 75 brownstones and townhouses and 107 single family homes.

Chris Curry, a senior executive vice president for Howard Hughes Corp., the current property owner looking to sell the land to Ivory and Woodbury, warned that if the plan is not approved, “then I’m afraid it will sit vacant for years to come.”

Several residents said they would much prefer the weed-covered open area that exists now to the intensity of the proposed residential development.

“We would love to see 57 acres of dirt until a better plan is developed,” said Katie Tullis, concerned that traffic generated by the development — which Ivory officials said would be far less than what the Cottonwood Mall generated at its peak — would spill into surrounding neighborhoods.

Laura Pinnock was among many speakers who questioned how a heavily residential development with limited commercial space can benefit the existing community. Without much retail, the project won’t generate the sales tax revenue needed to provide services to the development.

“If we can’t answer the questions ‘Do we want it?’ and ‘Do we need it?,’ then I’d respectfully ask that we don’t do it,” said Pinnock.

Residents also assailed the lack of open space in the plan, noting that it has no internal parks and that most of the green space is undevelopable land along Big Cottonwood Creek, an area where parents will not send their children to play.

The only speaker to support the developers was Larry Thomas.

“I’m interested in my own property rights, so I’m going to speak up for the rights of the property owner. It’s up to them to decide what goes there — not the neighbors, not the city,” he said. “Nobody owes you any green space. Nobody owes you a nice view. It’s not yours to decide what to do with. It belongs to the property owner.”

But his support was not absolute. He does not want the city to subsidize the development with rebates of new tax revenues, as the city was set to do if the previous mall development plan had materialized.

The developers “have a right to do what they want,” Thomas added, “but they don’t need my tax money or my neighbors’ to do it.”

Although numerous people couldn’t get into the meeting in City Hall because the crowd was so large, Planning Commission Chairman Jim Carter assured residents that their voices will be heard in a lengthy process established by the city.

“This isn’t your first and only and last chance to go on the record and let us know what you want us to do,” said Carter, noting the city has plans for nine meetings — public hearings, open houses and workshops — before the City Council ultimately acts on the proposal.

Next in line are an open house Dec. 12 at City Hall, followed the next day by another public hearing before the Planning Commission. A schedule is available at http://cityofholladay.com.