A growing desire for urban living coupled with the fact that Utah’s population is expected to double by 2050 have led to cities across the Wasatch Front to look at ways to adapt to the region’s evolving housing needs.
The Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) has partnered with Salt Lake County in awarding $1 million in grants to communities along the Wasatch Front to prepare for future growth and build urban areas throughout the county.
The partnership is through the Transportation and Land Use Connection (TLC) program that, according to the WFRC, provides resources to local communities for planning and implementation and visioning efforts that help them achieve their goals for future growth.
“The basic objective is to help communities create urban areas,” Ted Knowlton, the WFRC deputy director.
The TLC program, now in its third year, uses the Wasatch Choice vision as the framework for creating active nodes in Salt Lake County. The Wasatch Choice vision consists of principles and objectives intended to shape Wasatch Front growth over next few decades. The vision is regularly updated to adapt to changing needs and new issues that arise.
Under the Wasatch Choice vision, the WFRC, in collaboration with UTA and local leaders, identified various urban and community centers along the Wasatch Front that would best accommodate urban, walkable community nodes. The centers are based off of Envision Utah’s 3 percent Strategy, which calls for a third of new Wasatch Front development to be built in walkable urban centers with reliable transit access that takes up only 3 percent of developable land.
“These type of places tend to grow where there is mass transit,” said Knowlton.
Because of the importance of transit in creating vibrant centers, the majority of the urban, town and community centers identified in the Wasatch Vision are along the light and commuter rail corridor with close or immediate proximity to TRAX and FrontRunner stations.
According to Knowlton, TLC grants are intended to help communities use existing infrastructure more efficiently instead of a focus solely on building new infrastructure.
Of the six projects awarded grants this year, four are transportation related. Those projects include:
- Updating Bluffdale City’s Transportation Master Plan with a focus on enhancing the city’s bike network.
- Helping implement the Life on State Vision which will enhance State Street to make it more complete and better connected to surrounding neighborhoods in Salt Lake and South Salt Lake cities.
- Increasing housing and transportation options at the Point of the Mountain.
- Improving transportation circulation and parking regulation in the town of Alta.
The program’s large scope requires collaboration with multiple agencies. For example, collaborators for the State Street Vision project include the Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Transit Authority and the redevelopment agencies, planning and transportation offices from both South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City. But the assortment of agencies involved also increases the potential resources available to implement projects.
“By sharing these resources we can serve more people than we could individually,” said Knowlton.
Project funding comes from various sources. WFRC awarded $600,000 to TLC recipients this year, with redistributed federal and state grant money. Through the partnership, Salt Lake County contributes $200,000 a year. Each winning community must contribute a matching grant, while organizations like UDOT and UTA contribute funding and expertise.
The other projects receiving grants focused on zoning changes to create vibrant urban centers in West Valley and Kearns.
“We are responding to the communities that apply,” said Carlton Christensen, the regional development director for Salt Lake County. “Part of what makes this work so well is that communities are applying because they want these places.”
The grants are not the only tool that the WFRC has made available to local communities that want to create urban centers. Earlier this year the WFRC released a story map tool that allows users to has to document the walkability of over 1,200 blocks along most of the Wasatch Front.