Commission wants more life from Centro Civico proposal

The west face of John Florez Manor senior housing. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

Planning Commission members wanted a more iconic design from the developers of a mixed-use affordable housing project proposed for the western edge of downtown Salt Lake.   On Wednesday, July 26, developers sought guidance from the commission in a work session.  While appreciative of the project’s purpose, commission members were underwhelmed in the project’s design and street engagement along the 100 South block of 600 West.

“Those are big walls with not a lot of life to them,” said Planning Commission Chair, Matt Lyon of the street-facing side of the proposed residential building. “The 600 west side just seems kind of dull and complex-like.  We don’t want a place that is oriented to looking inside into the complex, instead of looking out.”

The project, by Centro Civico, a nonprofit serving the Hispanic community in the Salt Lake Valley, is called the John Florez Manor and consists of a six-story, 61-unit residential building, 43 of which will be reserved for low-income seniors.  The project will have a unit mix of studio, one and two bedroom apartments.  The affordable housing units will be reserved for residents earning between 25 and 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI).   Rents for the affordable units will range between $285 and $784, depending on the AMI and size of the unit.

The site plan for both phases of the Centro Civico development. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

The project will replace a vacant 0.38-acre parcel, currently used as overflow parking, on Centro Civico’s campus on the 100 South block of 600 West.  The 60,000 square foot building will include a ground-floor parking structure with 23 stalls.  Centro Civico planned the development to be transit oriented, being less than a block away from the Greektown TRAX station.  The project will have a low parking ratio, with about one parking stall for every three units.

Centro Civico plans the residential building to be the first of two phases.  The second phase will be the redevelopment of the organization’s civic center.  The new campus will include retail space, classrooms, a black-box theater, museum, art gallery, a plaza, office space and an athletic complex.

The developers argued that it was the plaza and a desire to have the residential building interact with the larger development as to why the residential building faces away from the street.  The developers plan to have the buildings in both phases front a Mexican-inspired public square.

Planning staff had concerns about the number of windows planned for the 600-west facing portion of the building.  Peter Corroon, representing the developers, argued that because the windows on 600 West would be west facing, too many windows would create a heat-effect that would make it more difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature in the building while complying with planned energy efficient elements.

Commission members suggested more architectural details and public art to break up the “gray wall” of the west face without requiring the extra windows.  In general, commission members embraced the idea of the public plaza.  The retail portions will be micro-retail spaces to ensure that the plaza has an open feel.

The project will also potentially house refugees that utilize Centro Civico services, which include educational, cultural, social and athletic activities.

“Centro Civico has become more than a Centro Mexicano, it is open to all that want to participate,” said Corroon.

The developers will return to the Planning Commission for planned development approval and a Conditional Building and Site Design Review on August 23rd.  The Salt Lake City Council recently approved a $635,000 loan to the developers from the Salt Lake City Housing Trust Fund.  The Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund has also committed an additional $868,000 to the project.

The site is on a brownfield and the soil will need to be remediated before construction can begin.  According to Corroon, the soil cleanup will begin this summer with construction expected to start shortly after.

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