Affordable housing for American Indians planned for Ballpark area

Map of the site of the Book Cliffs Lodge Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

On Wednesday the Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved a Conditional Building and Site Design Review (CBSDR) for proposed mixed-income development that will serve the Native American Community.  The development, the Book Cliffs Lodge, is a four-story, 54-unit residential development proposed for the southwest corner of West Temple and Paxton Ave in the Ballpark neighborhood.

“American Indians are one of the most underserved populations in Salt Lake City and America when it comes to accessing affordable housing,” said Anthony Guzman, a member of the Ute tribe and the executive director of the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.

The project represents a collaboration between the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City and the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.  The project will include both market and affordable housing units with a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments.  Despite the unique partnership with the Urban Indian Center, the units will be available to anyone that qualifies. The affordable units will be reserved for residents earning at and above 30 percent Area Median Income (AMI) with rents ranging from $400 a month for the lowest AMI units to $1,400 a month for the market-rate units.

The project will replace a low-rise office building and several vacant and single-family lots.  The project is zoned CC (Commercial Corridor)which allows for both commercial and residential buildings up to 30 feet in height.  Under the approved CBSDR the developers will be able to build up to 45 feet.

Because the project is just over a block from the Ballpark Station, the developers plan to have less than one parking stall per unit with 19 surface parking lots that will be directly east of the residential building.  The ground-floor units will be walk-up units with adjacent patios. Ground floor Amenities will include a gym, lobby and ground-floor walk-up units at both the east and west façades.

“We consider our project more than reasonable, even modest, we want to fill a great need but at the same time be apart of the solution to Salt Lake City’s need for affordable housing,” said Guzman.

During the public hearing, many residents of an adjacent townhome development on West Temple expressed concerns that the project would block their views of the Wasatch Mountains, cast shadows on their property and would affect property values by bringing in more affordable housing.  Residents were also concerned about the lower parking ratio.

“We at the center take great caution in not repeating the past by securing land for selfish reasons,” said Guzman.  ” We would not want to treat others the way our ancestors were.  My community has been living in a shadow for a very long time.”

After the public hearing, one commission member noted that the most of the project’s parcels are currently vacant attracting transients.  Furthermore, the commission member argued that despite concerns about property values decreasing, any new development, even one with affordable units, would only increase the property values for nearby residents.

Several commission members were concerned about the project’s proposed entrance at the east face fronting the parking lot instead of the west face along West Temple.  The developers noted that the entrance is proposed for the east face because many in the Native American Community believe that the entrance to a building must face east.  The developers noted that although their project must include an east entrance to accommodate any indigenous residents and residents with physical disabilities, the developers could include an additional prominent entrance on West Temple or Paxton Avenue.

The site and ground-floor plans for the proposed Book Cliffs Lodge Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

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