Commission approves more height for convention center hotel

Aerial view of the D-4 zoning district in downtown Salt Lake. Image courtesy Salt Lake City.

On Wednesday, the Salt Lake City Planning Commission voted to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council on a height amendment that would allow for taller building heights in the D-4 zoning district, a seven block area downtown just west of Main Street.

The Salt Palace Convention Center occupies a large portion of the D-4 zone.  Out-going Mayor, Ralph Becker requested the zoning height increase to accommodate a future convention center hotel, that under the project guidelines must be built within 1000 feet of the convention center.

The commission elected to support unlimited height on convention center property but the project would need to go through the Conditional Building and Site Design Review (CBSDR) process.

The D-4 zoning district roughly consists of area bounded by South Temple to 200 South and West Temple to 400 West.  Current zoning allows building heights up to 75 feet and a conditional height up to 120 feet (building this tall requires a conditional site design review by the planning commission).

City planners recommended language that could allow for building heights up to 375 (about the same height as 99 West, the residential tower at the northwest corner of the City Creek Center).  While the zoning change would still require any proposed buildings over 75 feet to go through the CBSDR process.

The language approved by the planning commission would allow the height variance just for the convention center parcels.  The rest of the D-4 zoning district would retain the current height restrictions.

According to planning documents height limits are lower in the D-4 zone to maintain a pyramid type shape in the skyline with the tallest buildings on or near Main Street and to preserve views of the Salt Lake Temple, Oquirrh Mountains to the west and the Central Business District (CBD).  Proposed buildings in the CBD, or D-1 zoning district can be up to 375 feet if it will occupy a corner parcel.  In the D-1 zone, corner buildings can surpass the 375-foot height limit if approved through the CBSDR process.

Salt Lake County re-released a Request for Proposal (RFP) this fall after walking away from negotiations with Dallas based, Omni Hotels & Resorts, the only developer to submit an RFP during the first round.

Under the original RFP, the convention center hotel will need to be built within 1,000 feet of the Salt Palace Convention Center and include between 850 to 1,200 hotel rooms and ample convention space.  In the newest RFP the county added that a new hotel could be built above the convention center on either the building’s northeast or southeast corner.  RFP’s are due to the county on December 18th.

The large number of required rooms has fueled speculation that the convention center hotel could be Salt Lake’s next tallest skyscraper.  If the city council approves the zoning amendment, with the conditional unlimited height, the new hotel could become the city’s tallest building.

The zoning amendment will head to City Council for final approval.

About Isaac Riddle 806 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.