Council warms to added height in Central Ninth

Google Street view of the Henries Dry Cleaners property at the 200 West block of 900 South. Image courtesy Google Maps.

Despite a negative recommendation from the Salt Lake City Planning Commission, the Salt Lake City Council appears poised to approve a zoning text amendment to allow for an additional floor in building height for a proposed mixed-use residential development in the Central Ninth Neighborhood.

“When we look at the overall issues impacting the city, the overall density issues we’ve talked about, this one makes sense,” said Councilmember Charlie Luke of the proposed development.

During a work session Tuesday, October 16, James Alfandre of Urban Alfandre, presented his plans to the city council for the redevelopment of the Henries Dry Cleaner Chuckles Bar properties at the  200 West block of 900 South.

The developer plans to build two mixed-use buildings on nearly 1.5 acres at the south side of 900 South between 200 West and Washington Street.  The properties are in the FB-UN2 (Form Based Urban Neighborhood District) zoning district that allows for building heights up to 50 feet, or four stories with key intersections within the zoning district allowed to build up to 65 feet, or five stories.

The Henries parcel is in the additional height overlay, but the developers are asking the city for a zoning text amendment to extend a height overlay to the southeast corner of 900 South and Washington Street (the current site of Chuckles Bar and a single-family home), allowing both buildings to be up to five stories.

Despite its prominent location in the neighborhood, the property has sat vacant for several years because the ground is polluted from previous uses making it a costly endeavor for any developer willing to take the project on.

“We’ve taken on a lot of risk as a developer,” said James Alfandre, managing partner of Urban Alfandre.  “We are committed to this neighborhood and want to do the right thing.”

Alandre told the council that the additional floor for the western building is necessary as the land contamination makes building subterranean parking too costly.

Alfandre argues that because of a natural slope, the parcels to the south of the Henries property are contaminated and will need to be remediated before any construction can begin.  Instead of a subterranean parking structure, the developers plan to build mezzanine parking to free up the ground space for retail.  Alfandre argued that the extra floor would provide another 10 to 15 additional units which would make the mezzanine parking financially feasible.

Under the FB-UN2 zone, developers do not need to include any off-street parking.  But Urban Alfandre plans to have an average parking ratio of 0.9 stalls per residential unit across both buildings.  Alfandre argues that because of the land contamination, the project cannot locate any residential units on the ground floor, meaning only non-residential uses like commercial space, residential amenities or structured parking could occupy the street level.

For the developers, ground floor retail featuring carefully curated local businesses, similar to the nearby Central Ninth Market, is the only really viable use for the project’s ground level and that without the extra floor, the developers would need to place parking at the street level.

According to Alfandre, the project’s residential units will all be market rate, as he noted that the neighborhood already has a high amount of traditionally affordable housing.  The developers plan to have the units be slightly smaller than what is traditionally built to make them more affordable to the younger residents that are drawn to Central Ninth.  The units will range in size from 350 to 390-square-feet studios to 1100-square-feet two bedroom apartments.

In addition to ground-floor retail along 900 South and 200 West, the developers want to activate the alley that bisects the properties with retail and plaza space.  

In August the Salt Lake City Planning Commission voted to forward a negative recommendation for the zoning text amendment, citing a lack of public engagement.

In September, the developers presented to the Ballpark Community Council and received overwhelming support for the project from residents in attendance with zero votes against the project and a few undecided votes.

The Salt Lake City Council will most likely hold a vote on the text amendment in November.  In addition to Luke, council members Erin Mendenhall and James Rogers indicated they’ll be supporting the text amendment.

*This is an updated version of a previous post.

Map of the Central Ninth Form Based Code and the height overlay. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

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