Holladay panel rejects plan for Cottonwood Mall site, saying it’s out of touch with the city’s vision for its future

(Tribune file photo) The Holladay City Planning Commission has rejected a proposal to revise the development plan for what once was the site of the Cottonwood Mall. The matter now goes to the City Council for final consideration.

Holladay • It’s not a fatal blow, but a plan to redevelop the old Cottonwood Mall site encountered a setback Tuesday after the Holladay Planning Commission rejected the proposal as inconsistent with the city’s general vision for its future.

The buildings were too tall and too close to its largest flanking roads, the commission said in a 5-1 vote denying the request by Ivory Homes Ltd. and Woodbury Corp. to revise an approved but dormant 10-year-old plan for the large parcel in the heart of Holladay.

Planners also said the proposal “missed the mark” in meeting the site’s designation as a mixed-use project of regional significance because the parcel was “purposefully divided into two areas,” with too much space (40 of the 57 acres) set aside for residential development and too little land devoted to tax-producing commercial properties.

Concerns also were raised about the lack of connections between the residential and smaller office/commercial zone, the amount of open space, and the size of lots and layout of streets in the project’s envisioned neighborhoods.

“We’re not lamenting the loss of the Cottonwood Mall,” said Alyssa Lloyd, a commissioner on the panel. “We’re addressing this with an eye to the future. My reservation is [that] it’s not all it could be.”

“It looks like Daybreak comes to the east side,” added Commissioner Chris Layton, referring to the community Daybreak Communities is developing in the valley’s southwestern corner. He expressed displeasure with the developers’ reluctance to address planners’ concerns, repeated multiple times in two months of meetings. “We’ve been very diligent, thoughtful and put in a lot of effort, and this [proposal] is not worthy of Holladay right now.”

The panel’s denouncement is to be delivered to the Holladay City Council at a 5:30 p.m. meeting Thursday at St. Vincent de Paul church, 1375 Spring Lane (about 5000 South), initiating another process involving more public hearings and give-and-take with the developers.

That process actually begins Wednesday, when an open house on the proposal is scheduled to run from 5 to 8 p.m. at Holladay City Hall, 4580 S. 2300 East.

While disappointed, Ivory Homes President Chris Gamvroulas said he was viewing the planners’ decision as “not so much a roadblock as some really good insight … that we’ll take into account when we move forward with the City Council.”

“Our goal,” he added, “has always been to bring forward the most positive, beneficial project we can envision that will also be economically viable.”

The developers have said a key to that viability was their ability to market a 136-foot-tall office tower capable of attracting a top-notch primary tenant that would draw other desirable companies to move into the area.

But that height was unacceptable to several commissioners who didn’t want to see anything taller than the 90-foot buildings approved in the previous site plan.

Ivory Homes and Woodbury amended their concept partway through the panel’s deliberations, moving that tower off the corner of Highland Drive and Murray-Holladay Road, and surrounding it with other buildings so it did not stand out so much.

But that was not enough to assuage the concerns of most planners.