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Planners designing how Wasatch Front may look in 2040

Published May 5, 2013 9:51 pm

Wasatch Front • Coalition taps locals near TRAX station for feedback, options.
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South Salt Lake • About 30 residents and business owners gathered recently to hear how their community around the Meadowbrook TRAX station on 3900 South may change and also vote on options for that transformation. It's part of a planning process that may determine how the entire Wasatch Front looks 30 years from now.

"Which scenario is most appropriate for the Meadowbrook station area?" Ryan Beck, a planner with Envision Utah, asked during the public workshop. He then moved through 20 questions about how high buildings should be: whether housing should target the lower-income folks living nearby or wealthier groups and whether long blocks there now should be shortened, among other issues.

Participants used electronic clickers to vote, and Beck showed them results as they went. He has been repeating similar presentations with interested groups and officials in the Meadowbrook area.

It's part of work by the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Consortium of governments regionally. It is using a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to figure how to handle an expected 67 percent population growth along the Wasatch Front over the next 30 years.

The coalition hopes that maybe a third of the population would start to cluster in new high-density town centers built around mass-transit stations that replace old, rundown areas.

The largely industrial area around the Meadowbrook Station was chosen as one of six demonstration sites that could become models for such redevelopment.

Planners envision that residents in such new town centers would live in buildings that have businesses or offices on lower floors and residences above. Town centers would be designed to allow people to live, work and play in the same area, so they would drive less and walk, bike or use mass transit more. Transit would act as a central magnet.

Officials are floating such possibilities by residents and businesses to see if they support such models, and how they would like them tweaked.

Developer Michael Brodsky, owner of Hamlet Homes, is one of the workshop participants — and praised the process, saying he hopes it brings solutions to some shorter term problems that he sees with current plans.

"I love that they are talking to all the stakeholders in the neighborhood and are really listening," Brodsky said. "I'm afraid that the area isn't quite ready now for some of their long-term ideas, and I hope they listen to come up with ways to work through that."

For example, he says the idea of multiuse buildings with businesses on the first floor and residences above may have a market in 30 years — but not now. He says some such buildings that were required by planners in the area have vacant first floors.

"Maybe buildings can be designed so they are easily convertible," he said. "The first floor could have residential units now. But if the market demand becomes great for commercial in the future, it could be converted at that time." Planners listened and discussed it.

Envision Utah is exploring two major possibilities for the Meadowbrook Station area. A "station community" model calls for high-density development focused within a quarter-mile radius of the station. Buildings mixing commercial and residential use would be three to four stories tall.

The other option, called "connecting stations," would spread less-dense development out through the wider neighborhood, largely along West Temple to tie into another TRAX station on 4500 South. Beck projected artist drawings of what each option could look like.

During the recent workshop, 75 percent of those attending voted for the more dense "station community" model. They also voted by large margins for more affordable housing that people living there now could use, and to try to attract more neighborhood services such as a grocery store. They also like the idea of breaking up its current long blocks into shorter ones that may make the area more walkable.

"We need your input," Beck told the group, urging them to spread word to others who may be interested to join the discussion. "We want this site to be a great example of what these plans can do."

The Wasatch Choice for 2040 consortium has a meeting to update members on its various planning activities and research scheduled for May 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center.






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