A wise Greek once told me “The economic health of a city can be seen by counting the number of cranes in the sky”. After many years of development drought, there are currently many of these metal praying mantises hovering over various blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. A high rise office tower is going in at 111 So. Main which will reportedly provide office space for the @700 Goldman Sacs employees currently leasing in the tech section of Research Park at the University of Utah. The new performing arts center on Main will be up and running in less than two years and its huge concrete pumps and tubes make the area look as if a giant spider is nesting on top of the construction.
In 2007, Salt Lake City approved four towers to be built downtown as part of City Creek. One of them was a condo project that included the tallest building ever constructed in Utah at 415 feet tall. I was a Planning and Zoning Commissioner back then and I remember citizens asking if there wasn’t a limit to building height here and folks worried that there was a law “that no building could be higher than the LDS Temple or the LDS office building.” That belief my friends, is a myth. The church’s headquarters on North Temple and State Street were completed in 1975 and became for a while the tallest building in downtown. Up until then the 270′ tall Kennecott Building was about as high up as you could see from the sidewalk. And before the Kennecott skyscraper there were the 11-story Boston and Newhouse Buildings at Main between 300-400 South. There are no height limitations to buildings in the core of downtown although there are restrictions about building big boxes on corners.
It’s possible though in the near future that tourists might get confused about where downtown is when they drive over Point of the Mountain and see the 1,100 acres in the heart of Sandy developed into high rises. The Salt Lake burb announced last month that a huge development of offices, housing and hotels dubbed ‘The Cairns’ to be added to the area between 90th-114th South and I-15 to the TRAX lines. The residential section will have 650 housing units of apartments and condos at Centennial Parkway where it meets Sego Lily Drive. “The Prestige” will include two 25-story towers and two shorter 6-story buildings.
Growth in Sandy is to be expected. It’s the city at the base of the Cottonwoods where four ski resorts are located. It’s also just a 20 minute hop over the Point of the Mountain to the land of MLM’s and tech employers. The developers are well aware of the demographics they will attract to be residents of their new project, from people downsizing from larger homes to 20-somethings who just want to rent and ski in their free time. It’s going to be a bit weird for us downtowners in a couple of years to say, “Hey, let’s jump on TRAX and go to Sandy for some fun!” when right now all there is to do is take the trains to the soccer games and Expo Center. In just a few years Sandy will be even more of a destination point as planners are connecting Rio Tinto and the Expo Center better with transportation lines and amenities surrounding the new development.