This summer Utah lost a visionary who built massive affordable housing here. Back in 1953, a self-taught designer named Richard Prows partnered with a local homebuilder and constructed 300 homes in a small town named Bountiful, Utah. Prows bought that man out a few years later and teamed up with an ad-man named Bob Wood and the future for Salt Lake City homeowners was changed forever.
This new team put up homes in the 1960’s in Kaysville, Tooele, Roy, Layton and Salt Lake. Prowswood (the newly formed development team) ventured into a fairly unheard of world in 1963…building condominiums. The first condos were built in Puerto Rico in 1958, but the first condos in the Continental U.S. were built in Utah. The Greystone Manor at 2730 So. 1200 East were the first built in our state thanks to some forward thinking developers and attorneys. They had to lobby the Utah Legislature to approve a ‘housing cooperative’ which was literally based on the ownership style used in ancient Rome where properties were called ‘condominios’. Other developers around the country were beginning to build condo projects and the Fed’s got involved in 1961 by allowing federally insured mortgages for this kind of housing. Bingo! You got loans? We got developers!
In 1963, Prowswood Corp. began developing Three Fountains condominiums in Murray. They were such a new concept that buyers and real estate agents didn’t understand what you owned, how they were run, who paid for what, etc. I had that same problem trying to sell downtown loft spaces in the late 1990’s so I can relate to the confusion of the buyer pool. Soon Prowswood started attracting the demographic we see today for condominiums: empty nesters, people too busy to want to do yards or maintenance, single women who like the security, and couples without kids. Prowswood also built Old Farm, Brookstone and so many more projects around the state from St. George to the north. The company literally spun out thousands of condos in their day. Now the daughter of Wood runs her own company and the manager of Prowswood became a developer himself and is responsible for most of the larger condo and apartment buildings here that have sprung up in the last decade or so.
Many of the original owners of Prowswood condos are still in their units. Others have passed or moved to assisted living. The construction has withstood 50+ years and the landscaping on all the projects has grown into luscious shady greens. New owners have updated their units over the years and enjoy amenities like swimming pools in the summer and snow removal in the winter months. Condo living isn’t for everyone but as someone who has owned and lived in one for years I will take a moment to salute Richard Prows and his vision…because without him I wouldn’t have a place to live! Less and less of them are being built in the Salt Lake Valley and more and more apartments are going up. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future will be for a lock and leave lifestyle that Prowswood was so famous for in their day.