In Midvale the evolution of brownfields to commercial center

The Peace Coliseum is one of the several buildings in the 72 West Corporate Center. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

A decade ago, Midvale’s burgeoning commercial park was a dead zone, a brownfield that for decades housed lead and copper smelters that not only exacerbated air quality but left toxins in the soil that would take years to clean up.  It took decades for the city to go from brownfield to commercial center, requiring not only site clean up but finding ways to entice developers to build in an area long seen as undevelopable.

For Midvale City leaders, developing the area previously referred to as the Midvale Slag site and former Sharon Steel site were a top priority since the 1980’s as the area, bounded by the Jordan River to the west and 700 West to the east and 6500 South to the north and about 8300 South to the south, was the last significant developable land in the mostly built-out suburban city. The Environmental Agency designated the area as a superfund site in 1991.  Another decade later the land had been cleaned up and sold to a private developer while the Midvale City Council City officially adopted the Bingham Junction Reuse Assessment and Master Plan, laying out the city’s vision for the area.

Land use map for Bingham Junction. Image courtesy Midvale Redevelopment Agency.

The Environmental Agency designated the Midvale Slag area as a superfund site in 1991.  Another decade later the land had been cleaned up and sold to a private developer while the Midvale City Council City officially adopted the Bingham Junction Reuse Assessment and Master Plan, laying out the city’s vision for the area.

The development areas, Bingham Junction and Jordan Bluffs, offer over 627 acres for development, most of which are now developed.  The area includes several mid-rise office buildings, multiple fast food establishments, a grocery store, TRAX station and hundreds of new residential units.

According to Christopher Butte, in a presentation to the Utah Chapter of the Urban Land Institute, the city used Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and waived impact fees to lure developers to the area and companies like Overstock.com which opened their new headquarters last year, referred to as the “Peace Coliseum,” directly north of the Bingham Junction TRAX Station.  

“We are usually the least expensive city to build these type of buildings in,” said Butte, Midvale City’s long-serving economic development specialist, referring to the Overstock.com building.

The city used grants to clean up the Jordan River, build pedestrian bridges to connect to the Jordan River trail and put in some of the needed infrastructure.  The city’s Redevelopment Agency paid for the majority of the needed infrastructure and coordinated with developers to further clean up areas as the developers were in the site development stage. The city was also an early adopter of the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) fiber broadband network, that Butte argued helped attract companies like Overstock.com to relocate to the area.

Besides the city’s lower building costs, it was the TIF’s and lack of impact fees that Butte argued was key to luring companies to the area.  Through the project area’s TIF option, developers have to pay the upfront building costs but the city collects 80 percent of the property tax increment generated for a set period of 25 years.  Developers pay less in property taxes during the TIF period, in part because their development increases the land value and in turn, the property tax rate.

Overstock.com corporate campus map. (PRNewsFoto/Overstock.com, Inc.)

It is arguably the 231,000-square-foot Peace Coliseum (dubbed as such because the building resembles a peace sign from above) and the larger Overstock.com campus that serves as the heart of the redevelopment area.  The discount online shopping retailer brought over 1,500 employees to the area and at 19-acres there is room for the company to expand at its Midvale campus.

To maximize development, new office buildings share parking structures.  Overstock.com’s parking structure is across the campus from the Peace Coliseum, while the TRAX station is just a few yards from the building’s main entrance.  According to Butte, the company intentionally placed parking further away from the building to encourage employees to walk and use public transit.

The LEED Gold certified Peace Coliseum is part of the View 72 Corporate Center developed by the Gardner Company, which also includes offices for Intermountain Healthcare.  The Overstock.com campus includes a 5,000 square-foot fitness facility, daycare, on-site healthy clinic and a greenhouse.

A greenhouse separates the Peace Coliseum from the parking structure. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

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