South Salt Lake evolving through form based zoning

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Rendering of the Ritz Classic Apartments looking from 200 East. Image courtesy of Think Architects.
Rendering of the Ritz Classic Apartments. Image courtesy of Think Architects.
Rendering of the Ritz Classic Apartments. Image courtesy of Think Architects.

Salt Lake City Council recently voted to continue its public hearing on the adoption of the Sugar House Streetcar Corridor Master Plan.  The plan calls for a transition to form-based zoning for several parcels along the S-Line Greenway and streetcar.

While form-based zoning is new to the Sugar House area, the results of similar zoning can be seen in neighboring South Salt Lake City.   

South Salt Lake included form based zoning into its East Streetcar Master Plan that the city adopted in 2014.  The plan rezoned the majority of the parcels surrounding the S-Line between State Street and 500 East, under the South Salt Lake East Streetcar Corridor Form Based Code.  Like the proposed, Sugar House plan, South Salt Lake’s form-based code is intended to encourage higher-density development that interacts with S-Line streetcar and greenway.

As with Salt Lake, South Salt Lake’s transition to a form-based code was initially met with resistance.

“South Salt Lake was slow to embrace the streetcar line and greenway,” said Michael Florence, the director of community development for South Salt Lake. “It has taken our citizens awhile to come on board, it has taken a lot of outreach.”

Florence was part of a group of presenters, that included representatives from the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) and ICO Development (the commercial arm of Ivory Homes), to discuss the recent changes to South Salt Lake during a Thursday lunch meeting for members of the Utah Chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

The small suburban city was an early grant recipient of the Transportation and Land Use Connection (TLC) program, a grant program through the WFRC in collaboration with Salt Lake County.

South Salt Lake received $25,000 from the TLC grant that funded a housing and market study that was used to develop a form-based code intended to support and promote high-quality, transit-oriented development.

According to Florence, extensive work was done before the form-based code was adopted.  The city conducted a density study to see how many units were needed for each block, a design study to look at how the streetcar and developments should interact, a traffic and parking study and met with each individual property owner.

The city also met with developers and financiers to make sure the projects under the proposed form-based code would be build-able and readily financed.

The adopted East Streetcar Corridor Form Based Code divides the corridor’s four blocks into three districts: State Street Gateway, North Haven and 500 East Gateway.  The State Street Gateway allows for heights up to five floors, while the remaining districts allow heights up to four floors.  A nearly two-block stretch of single family homes between State Street and 300 East directly north of the S-Line were not included in the plan area.

Map of the parcels included in the South Salt Lake East Streetcar Corridor Form Based Code. Image courtesy South Salt Lake City.
Map of the parcels included in the South Salt Lake East Streetcar Corridor Form Based Code. Image courtesy South Salt Lake City.

“These efforts have really changed how the city thinks of itself,” said Francis Lilly, the deputy director of community development for South Salt Lake.

Developing the area between the northern boundary with Salt Lake City and Interstates 15 and 80 has long been a priority for South Salt Lake.  The city has designated the area for its new downtown due to its unique connectivity to the rest of region, that includes not only quick freeway access but light rail and streetcar lines.

Yet, getting residents and the South Salt Lake City Council on board with the new form-based zoning took time. According to Lilly, residents were concerned about building heights, buffers and transitions while the City Council was concerned about sufficient parking.  

Another obstacle was South Salt Lake’s housing demographics.

“South Salt Lake has always struggled with housing, we have a large amount of renters,” said Florence.  “If we are going to have more apartments we want to make sure they are quality apartments.”

To ensure quality projects, the city’s form-based code has specific design standards that encourage street engagement and the use of quality materials.  The code includes minimum transparency requirements and restricts stucco to no more than 20 percent of a project’s façade.  The city also requires projects in the East Streetcar corridor that front the S-Line to have an entrance for every 75 feet along the S-Line.

How projects are approved has changed under the form-based code.  According to Lilly, all new development is subjected to a Design Review Committee prior to staff or planning commission approval and most conditional uses are now approved by staff.  Residential uses remained as conditional uses and are still subject to planning commission approval.  

 “This zone was an attractive opportunity that didn’t exist before,” said Justin Earl of ICO Development.  

Earl met with South Salt Lake leaders after the city adopted the form-based code with the intent to develop along the S-Line.  ICO Development is building the Ritz Classic Apartments, a large mixed-use development at the site of the former Ritz Classic Bowling Alley on the 2200 South block of State Street.

The project will be five stories with 287 residential units and will front both the S-Line and 200 East with a small private street that will connect it to State Street.

Including the Ritz, a significant portion of the developable land in the streetcar corridor will be developed in the next year.  The Ritz Classic Apartments is one of three multifamily developments currently in the works.

Construction is underway on the Zellerbach Apartments, a four-story 292-unit project directly south of the S-Line between 300 and 400 East.

Rendering of Zellerbach Development as seen from the intersection of 400 East and the S-line. Image by MG Architects.
Rendering of Zellerbach Development as seen from the intersection of 300 East and the S-line. Image by MG Architects.
About Isaac Riddle 539 Articles
Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.