On the middle stretch of the North Temple transit corridor, dead space rules at street level.
The Utah State Fairpark’s narrow sidewalk, brick walls and empty lots for seasonal parking are outmatched only by the over 660 meters – yes, that’s six football fields – of Rocky Mountain Power’s long office building facade and lifeless storage lots.
On the north side of N Temple west of the Jordan River, a KOA campground and residential trailer park have also largely left their street frontage dormant.
The State Fairpark’s White Ballfield, getting parked during the fair. Even when the city and UTA supply the crossings, up to now the Fairpark has ignored North Temple entrances. Notably, a pedestrian opening has been created near the TRAX station. Lastly, RMP’s acres of asphalted dead space waste the pubic investments on the south side of the street.
But at the Power Station TRAX, clustered on the north side along Cornell St, hundreds of new homes are about to be built.
At 1500 W, 200 of those are federal tax-credit subsidized “affordable” units. They will be housed with a large daycare facility and over 5000 square feet of retail space.
Let’s take a look at the latest iteration of the SPARK! project – just filed at the city for design review.
The project – its history and latest updates
The city’s Redevelopment Agency raised eyebrows when they paid $4 million for the 2-acre property in 2017, site of the Overnighter Motel since 1980.
At $22/sf, or $2 million an acre, it set a new precedent for land cost along the corridor. How times have changed. Five years later, the Gateway Motel, adjacent to I-15, listed at $150/sf. It is currently under contract over asking price, the seller tells us.
The RDA wanted a “catalyst” to spur development. It also wanted an affordable housing project – but not too affordable – insisting that the winners of its RFP, Chicagoland-based Brinshore Development, include only 50% of the project’s units as affordable. West side city council members had successfully convinced a majority of their colleagues that affordable projects were being dumped on the west side, and more market-rate housing was what was needed.
Since then, public officials’ hand wringing has reversed its direction, as displacement and gentrification have risen to the top of city hall’s agenda.
As land cost spikes along the N Temple corridor, affordable housing is now considered a long shot.
Interestingly, even though only 50% of SPARK’s units are covered by tax-credit subsidies (between 20-60% AMI), annual median income has risen enough in the area that even its “market-rate” units will be under the going rate for new apartment homes along the corridor.
The city’s demands in their RFP included neighborhood services. The latest project drawings include 5600 sf of retail, split into three small N Temple street-front spaces.
Developers have reduced the project’s number of parking stalls from 137 to 100, for a .5 : 1 ratio. Those stalls will be provided on the project’s first floor. Images courtesy KTGY Architecture + Planning.
On the building’s west side along Cornell, site plans show 5700 sf for a daycare facility. Or maybe not.
Whitney Weller, Senior VP at Brinshore, told us that they “in conversations with Neighborhood House for the child care space,” adding that they are “also speaking with other non profit organizations as well as food focused enterprises that would complement the residential community.”
Brinshore’s Weller predicts that SPARK! will secure permits and start construction by the end of the year. A 24-month building process is anticipated.
When asked about Brinshore’s other Salt Lake multi-family, mixed-income project at 255 S State, Weller reported that it is “on schedule with the South Tower expected to be completed by September and the North Tower by December.”
We also inquired how the new financing climate might impact affordable housing.
Weller shared her insights on the new borrowing conditions facing developers, as interest rates rise.
“While the financial climate is challenging, public sources of funding and public-private partnerships continue to support the development of affordable housing,” Weller wrote in an email. With rising interest rates, the “gap in project financing that needs to be filled with other sources such as HOME funds and philanthropic contributions.”
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