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Two companies that plan to redevelop Sugar House's beloved Granite Block unveiled their plans Wednesday to transform aging warehouses and storefronts into a mixed-use development much like The Gateway shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City.

Longtime Sugar House businessman Craig Mecham provided the first glimpse of a project that involves demolishing the buildings along Highland Drive between 2100 South and about 2150 South starting this fall. Mecham will then begin work on a six-story office building, a six-story "upscale" condominium project and about 45,000 square feet of ground-level retail space throughout.

Mecham released renderings that show buildings with brick-and-stone facades and a lot of glass.

Red Mountain Retail Group of Santa Ana, Calif., released plans for a retail and residential project on the other side of the block fronting mainly McClelland Street (1040 East), from 2100 South to Sugarmont Drive (2225 South).

Both the Red Mountain and Mecham properties front part of 2100 South.

Unlike Mecham's company, Red Mountain's Eric Nelson said his company will rehab, not demolish, all the existing buildings, including the Granite Furniture showroom and warehouse, to accommodate 100,000 square feet of retail space and 100 to 200 lofts.

He said the company plans to start construction in the first quarter of next year. "Completion is scheduled for 18 months to two years after construction starts.

"We feel like we have a plan we can get support for," Nelson said.

Indeed, many who live in the area support the idea of rehabbing older buildings in Sugar House instead of tearing them down.

Mecham said he has no other choice on his side of the block. While Red Mountain is dealing with structures that are many decades old, Mecham said his buildings - about a century old - are literally falling apart.

"They are not safe," he said.

Mecham said he is doing what he can to appease concerns that he is radically changing the feel of Sugar House.

"I feel what we're doing preserves both the feel and historic integrity of Sugar House," he said, noting that he could have used stucco instead of brick and concrete.

An underground parking structure will run under the 100,000-square-foot office building and the 65-unit condominium high-rise, he said. Mecham estimated that the project could take as much as two years to build.

Mecham has plans to eventually develop nearly the entire block of Highland Avenue, from 2100 South to approximately 2198 South. But development beyond about 2150 South could come years after completion of the first phase.

"It's going to depend on the success of the first phase," he said.

Councilman Soren Simonsen, who would prefer that Mecham rehab instead of demolish the buildings on his properties, said he has a lot of concerns about the project.

"It's a very tastefully designed project but I just think it's in the wrong location," he said.

He said many in the community want the area's older buildings to be preserved and they want plenty of affordable places for small independently owned merchants to thrive. Rents in the new development are likely to be significantly higher than the fairly inexpensive rent Mecham had been charging the tenants he's now emptying from the dilapidated buildings fronting Highland Drive.

Red Mountain Retail's development, too, could end up with a fair amount of national tenants, depending on how high the rents ultimately end up. Neither Mecham or Red Mountain had any pricing information for the retail, office and residential spaces.

Phil Carlson, chairman of the Sugar House Community Council, said he's happy to see a residential component on the block.

But he's worried that the retail portion will end up with mainly larger national chains.

"I hope we end up with small businesses, especially local ones," he said.

Sugar House resident Derek Payne, who lives a block away from the development, said he too has the same worries.

"I wish that the city could step in . . . and if not subsidize, at least assist small businesses to be able to flourish in Sugar House," he said.

On the drawing board

* Nearly an entire block of land from McClelland Street (1040 East) to Highland Drive (approximately 1100 East), and 2100 South to Sugarmont Drive (2225 South) will be redeveloped in coming years by two separate companies, which will add offices, residences and retail shops.

* Developer Craig Mecham's project fronts mainly Highland Drive from 2100 South to about 2150 South. If that project goes well, he may extend development as far south as 2198 South. Red Mountain Retail will rehab the Granite Furniture Complex on the other side of the block fronting mainly McClelland Street (1040 East), from 2100 South to Sugarmont Drive (2225 South), adding mainly retail space and lofts.

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