Commission rejects large project

Developer’s, Cottonwood Residential, plans to build to a large, block-long residential development in the Central City neighborhood failed to impress the Salt Lake City Planning Commission during a Wednesday’s commission meeting. 

The zoning map for the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

In a 6-to-2 vote, the commission members denied a Conditional Building and Site Design Review (CBSDR) for the Broadway Apartments, a proposed seven-story, 256-unit residential development at the 300 East block of 200 and 300 South.  The units will be market rate with a mix of studio, one and two-bedroom apartments.  The Broadway includes five levels of wood-framed residential levels over a two-story parking podium.

The project would occupy the former Motor Pool site, a former storage and repair facility for the FBI’s car fleet.  The narrow 1.54-acre parcel has frontage on both 200 and 300 South.   

The Broadway is in the R-MU (Residential-Mixed Use) zone which allows for buildings up to 75 feet outright and up to 125 feet through a CBSDR.  As currently proposed the Broadway would top out at just over 98 feet, requiring the CBSDR.  

Commission members took issue with the project’s lack of open space, especially the lack of a mid-block walkway, and planned garage access at both 200 and 300 South.   The project will have one parking stall for each residential unit.

“It is exactly the kind of project we get that causes a lot of complaints about this (higher) density of housing, because on the face of it, it just looks enormous,” said Commission Member Brenda Scheer.  “It makes for a bad precedent.”

The developers argued that a proposed rooftop plaza qualifies as open space and that because of the narrow width of the parcels, it would be impossible to build a mid-block walkway that could be wide enough to allow for safe pedestrian access.   

“This is a complicated, tough site,” said Robert Miller, the project’s architect with Studio PBA.  “I believe we have done a really great job with the building architect here… making it a contemporary, urban apartment building.”

Miller told the commission that the developers had considered placing the garage access, off the street directly west of the building via an adjacent small surface parking lot.  According to Miller that idea was shot down by the owners of the adjacent Violin School that were concerned a west-facing parking entrance would impact visitor access to the surface lot.

Several commission members suggested that the developers either break up the building into two separate buildings or build taller to offset any units that would be lost if the building was more narrow to allow for a mid-block walkway.  Under the R-MU zone the developers could add an additional 26 feet (two more floors) to the project’s height through a CBSDR.

Miller argued that splitting the building up and increasing pedestrian access would create safety issues by requiring residents to leave one building to access the amenities of the other.

“We’d be willing partners if the right plan came into place to make that mid-block connection viable and safe, but the block isn’t there yet at this juncture,” said Miller.

The developers can appeal the Planning Commission’s decision or they can reapply with a modified design. 

The project is one of two large developments planned for this block.  Across the street from the Broadway Apartment’s 200 South face is the site of the proposed Violin School Commons mixed-use development by Cowboy Properties and Form Development.   The Violin School Commons will include 248 residential units and ground-floor commercial space in three buildings, two new construction and one adaptive reuse on 2.5 acres at the northeast corner of the 300 East and 200 South intersections.  The project will be mixed-income with 111 affordable units and 137 market rate units.  Construction on the project’s first phase should start in 2019.

The ground-floor rendering for the 200 South face of the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.
The ground-floor rendering for the 300 South face of the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.
The site plan for the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.
Conceptual rendering of the west face of the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.
The rooftop plans for the Broadway Apartments. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

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