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Salt Lake City considers tweaks to massive Fleet Block project

July 24, 2023 by Nicole Mason
Urban Planning

By Carter Williams, | Posted – July 19, 2023 at 9:31 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The future of Salt Lake City’s Fleet Block is beginning to take shape, as city officials try to figure out how they want to turn the property into a prominent section of the budding Granary District.

Tammy Hunsaker, deputy director of community services for the Salt Lake City Department of Community and Neighborhoods, unveiled a slightly altered site plan for the block during a Salt Lake City Council informational meeting Tuesday.

It still breaks the 8.75-acre parcel into four sections, but a designated 3-acre public space or park will now be on the corner of 900 South and 300 West, so it’s closer to the 9-Line Trail, which is a part of the proposed Green Loop surrounding downtown Salt Lake City.

Hunsaker said this also moves the public space away from high-voltage power lines that “may impede development a little bit.” In addition, she said a shade analysis found that the space will be sunnier in the wintertime, thus making the new public space more of a “year-round opportunity” than if it had been overshadowed by the future new developments coming to the area.

Other changes include adding motor vehicle access to three of the mid-block “connection arms” that tie in all four sections. The fourth arm, located on 900 South, would not be open to motor vehicles to provide “really great synergies” with the trail in the area, Hunsaker said.

A map showing how the Fleet Block property is proposed to be split up. The new design moves the park or public space from the northeast corner to the southeast corner.
A map showing how the Fleet Block property is proposed to be split up. The new design moves the park or public space from the northeast corner to the southeast corner. (Photo: Salt Lake City Department of Community and Neighborhoods)

Earlier in the meeting, Salt Lake City planners provided an update to the Form-Based Urban Neighborhood 3 zone, a new zone that would be created in the city for the project space and areas near it. Planners said they now propose that retail, restaurant or “similar active use” must account for at least 30% of the ground floor for any building that is 100 feet or more in length within the designated development plots.

“For these buildings, it’s usually more economically viable to incorporate retail or restaurant uses versus a smaller building where it’s tough to make that pencil out,” said Salt Lake City senior planner Daniel Echeverria, adding that retail and restaurant space can fill out as much as 75% of a building’s ground floor, while the remainder of the ground floor could be residential after 30% is filled out.

The original 200-foot building limit would remain intact, equating to almost one-third of a city block. This, Echeverria explained, is meant to “break up the street wall and provide some visual variety and interest on the street” as compared to a “single, monotonous” 660-foot-long building wall.

The proposed zone also lists that buildings can be “generally” up to eight stories in height, double the other two Form-Based Urban Neighborhood zones. That said, buildings can be taller if approved in a design review process. Salt Lake City Council Chairman Darin Mano called it a “downtown-ish zone” that offers “quite a bit” of building height and density as the city’s downtown begins to spill out into areas south and west of it, like the Granary District.

“You all designed it specifically for that area, and I think it does fit the area more than some of our downtown zones and certainly better than general commercial,” he told city planners in the meeting.

The Fleet Block once stored Salt Lake City’s vehicle fleet until a new facility opened elsewhere in 2010. After the block became an eyesore for nearly a decade, the city began steps to redevelop the property beginning in 2019.

The property was appraised at $37.5 million in 2022, though Hunsaker said that valuation is out of date and doesn’t include remediation costs. The city is working with state environmental experts to receive Environmental Protection Agency grants tied to the site assessment work.

The public space component of the project is also slated to receive $6 million in funds from the parks bond city residents approved last year.

Members of the council debated Tuesday whether it should sell or lease the land out for new development, both of which would add revenue to the city. There were also discussions about how the open spaces are used and building lengths.

A public hearing regarding the status of the project is expected in the near future before either the new zone or the Fleet Block project is finalized. A final vote wouldn’t come until after the hearing.

Meanwhile, the council didn’t discuss what will come of murals painted on the Fleet Block walls that began appearing three years ago. The block became a place for community expression, featuring murals of those who died from police shootings in Utah and across the country over the past few years after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Salt Lake City leaders said in December that they would seek to find ways to incorporate its recent history when redeveloping the block, making it a larger place of healing.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter posted a message online expressing concern about the future site. The organization wrote that it hopes that the space includes a resource center “that provides intersectional community care” or “a safe space for people who are transitioning from one life event to the next.”

“This is a monumental space that the community created — not the city,” the organization says. “This is a perfect space to solidify resources and connections to people in our city who are unsheltered, who need harm reduction access (and) people who need access to mental health relief. This is our space.”

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