Salt Lake City officials are inching closer toward their vision of an expanded manufacturing and economic center in the city’s far west side. Yesterday the mayor’s office announced that POST Consumer Brands, the nation’s third-largest cereal company, has begun construction on a 901,000 square foot facility on California Avenue and 5600 West.
The POST announcement comes a few weeks after the Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced her office’s intention to develop an economic implementation plan and build an infrastructure backbone for the city’s Northwest Quadrant in the next two years. The campaign, referred to as Made in Salt Lake City: NWQuad, focuses on the quadrant’s 3,600 developable acres surrounding the proposed site of the new state prison adjacent to Interstate 80 just west of the Salt Lake City International Airport and the International Center.
City officials envision the quadrant and the area just south of the interstate as an employment, light industrial and manufacturing center with a potential inland port.
The city’s timeline is connected to prison’s timeline to maximize available state financing when the state builds the needed infrastructure for the new prison. The state’s selection of the northwest corner will require significant infrastructure investment, including roads, water, sewer, gas lines, fiber-optic cabling and lighting to connect the site to the interstate.
Earlier this year the city council approved the Northwest Quadrant master plan that encompasses most of the area between the Great Salt Lake and State Road 201 west of Interstate 215. The master plan focuses on creating light industrial and manufacturing jobs in a newly created Eco-Industrial District. Planning officials estimate the quadrant plan area could support up to 60,000 jobs.
POST’s $50-million distribution facility will be located in the southeast corner of the Northwest Quadrant Master Plan area and will be near another new development, a proposed UPS 900,000-square-foot facility that is expected to begin in January 2017. The facilities will add a combined 1,600 new jobs.
But to Reid Ewing, chair of the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, the current plans for economic development in the Northwest Quadrant encourage sprawl and will add to the region’s deteriorating air quality by requiring the thousands of potential new workers to commute by car.
“The land the northwest quadrant is zoned exclusively M1, meaning the only development allowed is light industry and manufacturing. This also means that residential development is specifically forbidden,” wrote Ewing in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune. “Salt Lake City residents complain about traffic congestion on I-15 due to imbalanced northward flow in the morning and southbound flow in the evening. We will see the same situation on I-80 under the northwest quadrant plan with westbound flow in the morning and eastbound in the evening, not to mention massive congestion on Bangerter Highway and the Mountain View Corridor.”
Most of the land in the quadrant plan area is zoned for agriculture and manufacturing. Under the newly adopted master plan, most of the land will be zoned exclusively for manufacturing.
The city plans to preserve wetlands along the northern edge of the project area, but Reid that environmental preservation is offset by the increase in car commutes to the area.
Reid cites the 2009 Northwest Quadrant master plan that included a mix of residential and employment centers that he refers to as a jobs-housing balance. The 2009 plan passed the planning commission but was never formally adopted. The 2009 plan would have accommodated housing for up to 70,000 people.
While the newly adopted plan doesn’t include any residential uses, one area within the plan that could accommodate residential uses is International Center that already includes multiple hotels and the plans for a “gateway to the city” for the area surrounding 7200 West and Interstate 80. The plan calls for that area to potentially include regional transit connections (including a possible expansion of TRAX) and four and five story commercial buildings, including offices and hotels.
The city is still determining the final zoning for the quadrant, meaning that there will be public hearings as the zoning text amendments will need approval from the planning commission and city council. Staff will brief the planning commission on Wednesday, January 11th on proposed zoning text amendments for the area north of Interstate 80 and west of the airport.