Creative Wards

I went to a friend’s new office at 95 South State Street-you know, the all-glass 25 story building that sits on the corner of 100 South and State, just west of Harmons. It’s a beautiful building inside but what really impressed me is the fact there is a four story meeting house for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the base of the tower. Frankly, upon learning this, I did a palm-to-forehead slap and said to myself, ‘Brilliant!’.  You can tell when walking or driving by that building that the first four floors look much different than the glass tower sprouting up from the new Wards inside.  Look closer and you’ll see a church steeple not on top of the glass tower but coming up from the street in between the building (heading north on State Street) and the canopy covering the tunnel entrance under State Street on historic Social Hall Avenue. The original Social Hall for gatherings was there and used until 1922.

Many forward-thinking developers like to see a variety of uses in a project and many cities require joint-use spaces in their zoning rules and regulations. For example, it’s common to have retail on the main street level of high rises to cater to pedestrian traffic such as restaurants, bars, convenience stores, boutiques, etc. This building currently hosts six congregations (Wards) for their weekly worship meetings, one of them for Young Single Adults and another one for Spanish-speaking members. There are two chapels which can host two congregations at the same time as well. This meeting house was built to accommodate all the saints who are renting downtown in the new apartment buildings that have gone up recently and to promote a walkable community.  If you’re familiar with downtown Salt Lake City think for a minute…where are the Wards and Stakes? There are very few of these buildings for worshippers in the heart of the city, so it only makes sense to have a mixed use for business and worshippers in the same space. During nice weather there’s a roof terrace for office tenants during the day and for Church groups at night and on the weekends, a Sunday School room and a place for the Relief Society to meet.

This isn’t unique for the Church itself to capitalize on mixed-use.  Due to high rents, they have created joint-use spaces in Viginia, Alexandria, Brussels, London, and New York. The office towers provide revenue for the meeting houses. The Church has stated that tithes were not used to construct the office tower and was developed via City Creek Reserve, the real estate arm of the Church. FYI, the Manhattan location at 125 Columbus Avenue is under renovation and members will be sharing space in the beautiful and historic West End Collegiate Church on the corner of West End Avenue and 77th Street for the next few years.

 

The Creepies

I recently had a new client to the area wonder about sex offenders that were located in a neighborhood where she wanted to purchase a new home. Her concerns were especially strong as she has two very young children and wants a safe neighborhood to live in upon closing escrow. She Googled a particular address and found there were over 30 offenders living within a few miles of the home. No surprise to me as I get this question a lot, and frankly I was surprised there weren’t more noted on the site she was using. There are a tons of websites that may lead you to the information but the best one of all in Utah is the Utah Department of Corrections which uses OffenderWatch®, the nation’s leading registered sex offender management and community notification tool. It’s updated instantaneously throughout the day with offender addresses and other information. All you do is enter an address in the State of Utah and you will see real-time info on the publishable offenders within a specific radium of the address you enter.

For example, I entered a random address of 125 So. State Street, which is where the Federal building is located downtown. The site found 12 offenders in 10 locations. I clicked on the numbered dots on the map and instantly find a photo, name, age, height and weight, eye and hair color and address of the offender. As examples, one lives on 2nd Avenue and was found guilty of ‘lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under 16’, convicted in 1998. Another, living in Farmington but showing up on the downtown map was found guilty of sexual abuse of a child in 2008 and was released in 2013. When I changed the address to Westminster University on 1300 East and 1700 South, 10 offenders came up. Seven offenders were listed within a mile surrounding BYU’s Provo campus, 4 within a mile of Utah State University in Logan, and 3 within a mile of Utah Tech University in St. George.

A convicted sex offender can remain on the list for a long, long time. If a person is convicted of a sex crime and was required to registered as a sex offender, then granted a pardon by the Board of Pardons, they qualify for removal from the state registry.  They can be on the registry for 10 years or for life depending on the seriousness of the crime. Hell, getting caught pissing in public can land you on the site as a sex offender!  Offenders also cannot live near daycares, preschools, public pools, public or private schools, parks, or playgrounds.

Want to know where the creepies live in your hood? Start with the Utah Department of Corrections website for the most up to date information and you can even register for email alerts if one moves nearby.

 

Fences and Potholes

In the past six weeks I’ve had three flat tires from driving around downtown. Each time my hero ‘Joey’ at Burt Brothers tires has pulled out a long sheet rock screw out of my tire. This maddening fact is due to the massive amount of construction downtown, and between the awful potholes and the detritus on the streets from all the construction going on in Salt Lake City I might want to tell you all to AVOID the area!

Yes, the Temple is under construction and the east and west sides of the block are ingress and egress for supply trucks, cranes and a myriad of workers. The previous visitors’ centers been torn down and the area where the North Visitors Center was located is going to be turned into a reflective garden and the South Visitors Center on Temple Square is becoming an all new above-and below-ground facility for new guest experiences. Go east a block and you’ll see that the Lion House is fenced off as it is now having some upgrades to address structural deficiencies, preserve aging finishes, and replacement of outdated mechanical systems. It’s been closed since 2020 and the Beehive House will close April 8. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is also undergoing similar work and all three buildings will re-open in 2025. The Church Office Building Plaza and neighboring Main Street Plaza are also being fluffed up. The Beehive House (yup, there’s a beehive sculpture on the top of the building) was built in 1854 as Brigham Young’s primary residence until his death in 1877. The same year the Beehive House was finished, Young began construction on another home next door where he installed a 1,200-pound stone sculpture of a lion (thus the name).

As for driving, here’s the streets going under the bulldozer this summer: 300 North (300 West to 1000 West), 2100 South Reconstruction (700 East to 1300 East), Virginia Street Reconstruction (South Temple to 11th Avenue), West Temple Reconstruction (North Temple to 400 South), 1300 East (2100 South to 3300 South). Most of the streets need ADA ramps, better bike lanes, new curbs, gutters and sidewalks. I’m not sure how the City will update Virginia Street as it’s pretty narrow, but the plan is to have a continuous sidewalk on the west side, uphill bike lanes to, traffic calming elements and improved bus stops.

Finally, remember it’s Spring in Utah!  That means you can golf or bike to the Great Salt Lake one day in sunny weather or the next day it will snow and you’ll be heading to the slopes. Spring brings out the WORST potholes throughout our town and we will all be cursing what they do to our cars and bikes until they are filled. The City likes to spend about three weeks each spring having a ‘Potlhole Palooza’ to put extra focus toward repairing these street holes.

Wanna Run Away?

I have a lot of friends who say, “If Trump gets elected again, I’m moving to Canada and buying a home there!”  Um, sorry kids, but unless you’re a Canadian citizen, you cannot purchase residential property as of January 2023.

Well, so how does one become a Canadian?  Marriage to a Canadian citizen does not give you citizenship.  You must first apply for and get permanent resident status.  Then you must apply for Canadian citizenship and meet the same requirements as any other person seeking Canadian citizenship. To become a citizen, you must: be a permanent resident, have lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 5 years, have filed taxes in Canada, prove your language skills, pass a citizenship text and then take the oath of citizenship. If you committed a crime in our outside of Canada, been in prison or on parole or probation you may not be eligible to become a citizen for a period of time, either!  How is that different than becoming a U.S. citizen? Generally, people born here are considered U.S. citizens but there are similar steps for a foreigner to become a citizen here in this country.

Utah has a major housing problem with low inventory and very little affordable inventory. Canada has the same problems, so much so that the initial ban on foreigners buying property in Canada was extended for two years until January 2027. Their Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance stated this past February, “For years, foreign money has been coming into Canada to buy up residential real estate, increasing housing affordability concerns in cities across the county, and particularly in major urban areas. By extending the foreign buyer ban, we will ensure houses are used as homes for Canadian families to live in and do not become a speculative financial asset class. The government is intent on using all possible tools to make housing more affordable for Canadians across the country.”

Canadian legislators have poured over $14 billion through an Affordable Housing Fund to build 60,000 new affordable homes and repair 240,000 homes. They’ve allocated $4 billion though a Rapid Housing Initiative that’s expected to help build more than 15,500 affordable homes for people experiencing homelessness or in severe housing needs, and another $200 million to build 4,500 new homes by repurposing surplus federal lands and buildings. The Canuck’s have also come up with a brilliant Tax-Free First Home Savings account that allows residents to contribute up to $8,000 per year (up to $40,000) for their first down payment.

Utah legislators have, in my opinion, NOT offered many solutions for our state-wide housing crisis. Giving $20,000 to first time buyers to use as a down payment and or closing costs ONLY benefits developers of new construction housing. For anyone wanting to live in our major cities, there is little new construction other than high rise apartments for rent.

Holy Gorgeous

The LDS Church has 335 Temples around the world in various phases of operation.  Some are in full operation; others are under construction or being remodeled. I’m not a member of the faith and in all the years I’ve been in Utah I’ve never actually been inside Mormon holy ground. When a Temple is being built or remodeled it will be formally dedicated and blessed before it’s sealed to the public. Once that happens then only card carrying members can enter the holy space.

They have just announced that the Church purchased one of the most cherished pieces of history the faith has ever known, the Kirtland Temple in Ohio. It was previously owned by the Independence, Mo. -based Community of Christ. Both church groups trace their roots back to Joseph Smith. This Temple will not be used as a private Latter-day Saint space but will be open to the public for tours as a historic building as of March 25th. This former house of prayer was dedicated in 1836 and is now seen as a National Historic Landmark. It was built using local sandstone and native timber from surrounding forests.

The new St. George Temple known as the Red Cliffs Utah Temple was closed forever to the public on March 3rd. I was able to tour it the day before and frankly was blown away by the simple elegance of the interior and the homage to local surroundings. When you approach the grounds, you might think you’re in Egypt as the palm trees planted on each side of the walkways leading to the building give a Middle eastern feel. Of course, per Mormon design, there are lovely fountains out front as well.  The building itself is made of a pinkish precast concrete complimenting the colors of the sandstone mountains surrounding the area. There are drop dead art glass motifs running throughout with massive stained glass images designed and fabricated by Holman Studio of local succulents, bearclaw poppies (only found in Utah), and Indian paintbrush. The stone and tile patterns complement the layered structures of the local mountains and the exterior is capped with a running braid of raised cottonwood leaves. The interior wallcoverings feature simple but elegant paintings of swirls of local vines and flowers and leaves. Oddly enough, due to expansive soils on the site, the temple had to be placed on a deep stone-pier foundation with imported soil to move the Temple out of the existing water table.  Frankly, it’s beautiful inside.

There are now 17 operating temples in Utah with four  under construction in Saratoga Springs, Layton, Taylorsville and Orem. The main Temple in Salt Lake City was scheduled to reopen next year but the church has said the project won’t be completed until 2026. After being damaged by an earthquake the Church decided to do a complete renovation and seismic upgrade to the Temple itself and re-design Temple Square and create a better visitor experience.

Celebs Love Us

Movie makers and celebrities love Utah for so many reasons. Our natural beauty is a draw with our Big 5 national park vistas. Our workforce is well versed in all things movie and TV making and Utah loves to give out tax incentives for films to be made here. Just in the past decade Utah saw $600 million in movie revenue brought to the state with $300 million going to rural communities.  Those in the industry call us ‘Little Hollywood’ and the proof is in the pudding with so many successful films and TV series created here over the years. You can check out the free “100 Years of Utah Film & Television” exhibit on the fourth floor of the Utah Capitol building (wait til the legislature ends March 1st for any chance of parking!) which runs until December 2024 to learn more about our film history.

What are the most famous films and series that were shot here? In recent decades: Napoleon Dynamite, Footloose, The Sandlot, High School Musical, Dumb and Dumber, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut, Star Trek (2009), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Legally Blonde 2, Thelma and Louise, Planet of the Apes and Independence Day, to name a few. There have been numerous TV shows filmed here, like Touched By an Angel, Andi Mack, Big Love, Westworld, Grizzly Adams, Yellowstone, and of course The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.

Kevin Costner is in the process of building a film studio in St. George on 500 acres near the new airport, at a cost of $40 million. He loves our Utah scenery and has just shot two episodes of a four-part movie series called “Horizon: An American Saga”. Apparently, Costner has had issues filming interior scenes in his movies here and will build two sound studios, a production warehouse, offices and even a ‘Costner-themed’ restaurant to further his investment here in the state. Previously he shot the first three seasons of Yellowstone in the Park City area.

As far as celebrities go, singer Post Malone was rumored to be leaving Utah but said in a recent statement on X, “I’m not moving out of Utah y’all”.  Rapper NBA YoungBoy Never Broke Again just listed his home in Olympus Cove for $5.5 mil. The almost 9,000 sq. ft mansion on 1.46 acres features a five car garage and a pool with unobstructed views of the Salt Lake Valley.  He had been confined to his home for the past two years by the court while he awaits a federal trial but is ready to get the hell out of here now. Whitney Rose (The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City) and her husband Justin have sold their $2.1 million home in Daybreak with their hidden ‘Speakeasy’ bar after it being on the market for only a month and have announced they have purchased another home in Utah.

 

Selling Tips for Spring

Traditionally people like to wait until Spring to put their home on the market. If they have kids, they might be out of school in May so April is a good time to go to market. Right now there are so few homes available that it’s a really great time to sell because of low competition and still multiple offer battles.

To get ready to sell here are some tips:

Enhance curb appeal by freshening up landscaping, planting colorful flowers and even give the front door a new coat of paint. Replace or clean your mailbox if it’s by the door.

Embrace spring cleaning! Declutter, organize and pack. Depersonalize your interior spaces so buyers can picture themselves in your space.

Highlight outdoor spaces by staging your patio or deck with cozy furniture that invites outdoor entertaining in the summertime. Optimize natural light and clean windows. We always have your windows cleaned before listing at no charge-makes such a difference!

Buyers will have inspections, so you might want to get ahead of the game and get a radon test and sewer scope to ensure there are no issues that will bite you while you’re under contract. Even a home inspection can help deter problems. Call if you need referrals for inspectors!

Putting Down Roots

Often people believe that the first homes in Utah were built in Salt Lake City upon Brigham Young and his followers supposedly claiming, ‘This is the place!’ He led his Mormons here and founded Salt Lake City in 1947 and over the following decade 90 Mormon settlements arose in the state. Nope, the first recorded home in the state built by a white man was in Odgen, and it’s still standing almost 200 years later.

The Miles Goodyear cabin was built in 1947 by a fur trapper and trader who built his home made up of wood that he hand-sawed from the cottonwood trees along the banks. He is credited with creating Fort Buenaventura there which became a home base for Goodyear, his Ute wife Pomona and their kids, other natives, trappers and travelers heading across the country. The fort had four log cabins, corrals, sheds and a large garden enclosed behind log walls surrounding the site. He sold the fort, his animals and all the buildings there to a Mormon named James Brown for $1,950 and the area became known as Brownsville, then later as Odgen.

Only rich people had homes with hardwood or stone floors back in the day, and for centuries most humans had lived with dirt floors. Thus came the phrase ‘dirt poor’ to identify those without enough money for a nicer abode. During the winter occupants would throw down straw over their dirt floors to soak up mud and snow tracked into their cabins. Straw, unlike hay, is the stalks of grains like wheat after the seeds have been removed and this is called ‘thresh’. Many cabin owners in the day would then put a board across the floor of the main door’s entrance to keep the thresh inside the home, which is where we get the phrase, ‘thresh hold’.

Goodyear himself was orphaned at the age of four and according to history spent most of his youth as an indentured servant. Like so many optimists he headed west to find his fortune and became a successful trapper and trader of fur pelts. When he finally settled down in now Odgen he built the fort to protect his family and livestock. He did marry the daughter of the Ute Chief Pe-teet-neet, so he may have just needed protection from bears and cougars rather than native tribes. His optimism led him to sell the fort and seek gold in the Sierra Nevada’s. He did find the ore but died at the age of 32 in 1849.

You can visit the Fort and camp there along the river anytime between April and November. It’s a Utah State Park with 84 acres with cabin replicas, a visitor center, Goodyear’s cabin, picnic tables, canoe rentals, restrooms and an annual Mountain Man Easter Rendezvous and OFOAM’s Odgen Music festival. There’s also an 18-hole championship disc golf course where competitions are held regularly.

Co-Housing

Back in 1998 a revolutionary concept was offered to Utah homebuyers: co-housing. The notion was based on similar projects in Europe where homes/condos/townhomes are clustered around each other to create ‘intentional community’. Wasatch Commons (@1400 South 1500 West) was built on 4.5 acres in the Glendale neighborhood with 26 townhomes. I was the original listing agent for the project and trying to explain the idea to folks was a challenge for the most part, however some people not only understood the idea immediately, but they also wanted IN!  Why?

Co-housing comes in different forms around the world. Here, the townhomes in WC have different floorplans, and you own your unit (although some owners rent out their units). You must park on the west edge of the community and walk-in to your property; thus you pass by your neighbors front doors every day along the beautiful winding paths in the project. There is a common house with guest rooms for owners’ guests and where there are regular shared meals and events for the owners and tenants who live there, a workshop and car repair bay, an exercise room, community fruit trees and garden pots, play areas for kids and lovely green spaces throughout. They are self-managed, and everyone has a say in how things are run throughout the year.

Since 1998 there have been no other co-housing projects built in Utah to my knowledge, and that’s a shame. The only new idea for a co-housing-like project is a tiny home village by the Other Side Academy planned for the northwest side of the Salt Lake Valley. However, the concept is gaining traction around the country since housing is so expensive. Culdesac in Tempe, Arizona has opened and is getting rave reviews. It’s all built around the idea of no cars and that people are happier in a walkable neighborhood. Residents get free rides on the Metro (a station is a short walk away), 15% off Lyft rides, Bird scooters are on site and there’s 1,000+bike parking spotsl. It is a rental community with studios to three bedroom units. There are 50+ shared courtyards that meander around the grounds with two plus miles of bike and footpaths, zero square feet of asphalt, 700 apartments and 44,000 square feet of retail and amenities for small, local businesses, a pool and dog park. Each unit has a washer and dryer, plenty of natural light and is very pet friendly. It’s billed as a ‘5-minute city’ because you’re only minutes away from an urban market, a bike shop and cozy places to eat. There are firepits, BBQ grills and water features (but the landscaping is desert/low water), and hammocks scattered around the 17 acres there.

Back here all we need is a futuristic developer and land for the next co-housing project. The time is now for ideas and actions for affordable housing options in Utah’s future!

Getting Greener

Who knew that a single head of lettuce can take up to 25-years to decompose in a landfill!  Momentum Recycling who picks up our paper waste in Salt Lake County wants to educate us that food waste gives off gases when it decomposes, like methane that’s 23 times stronger than the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Food waste in landfills also emit ammonia which really does a number on increasing our crappy winter inversion air. So far we haven’t had any home pick-up service to get food waste. Recycling minded individuals in Salt Lake County can dispose of their food scraps by taking them to HelloBulk! at 1185 S. 300 W. (a local drygoods and refill store), The Front Climbing Club at 1470 S. 400 W. and Wasatch Resource Recovery at 1370 W. Center Street in North Salt Lake. This latter company has Utah’s first anaerobic digester that can process organic and food waste to turn it into sustainable natural gas and fertilizer. For under $20 a month you can get a bucket delivered to your home with another bucket inside of it with a roll of compostable bags. Collect your food waste and then place it on the curb in the larger bucket every week and voila! The waste will be turned into good gas.  Certainly you can also throw scraps into your garden, but if you’re not one who possesses the passion given to those born with a green thumb, sign up with Momentum or get it to one of the collection sites.

Salt Lake City suspends brown curbside yard waste cans from being emptied from January 22 to March 3, 2024 to save fuel costs and reduce emissions in the valley, with the exception of dead Christmas trees. Do you have a holiday tree that needs to be composed? They ask that you cut up your tree and place it out in your brown bin, and especially don’t over-pack the bin so nothing shakes out. Make sure that you remove all ornaments, lights and tinsel before you load up your bin. If you live along the Wasatch front other than Salt Lake City, your tree will be picked up the day after your regularly scheduled collection day in January from Jan 4-31st. Do NOT put the tree in your waste cans or recycle cans. Flocked trees are NO BUENO for recycling of any kind. If the tree is over 8 ft. gall, cut it in half and leave it by the curb, and if snow covers it up, uncover it? Murray, Draper, SOJO, and Cashe Valley have drop off sites for dead trees. Provo will pick up trees on the curb and St. George has drop offs at the Reuse Center on Brigham Road. Here’s a great site for drop off rules around the state: pickyourownchristmastree.org/UtahTreeRecyclingDisposal. Freshly cut Christmas trees last between 4-5 weeks if properly watered.