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Salt Lake City's push to create new living spaces downtown includes at least one vertical village.
Nobody quite expected the trendy, high-rise condominiums and stores in the Broadway Park Lofts near Pioneer Park to fill up as quickly as they did especially after the project sputtered to a debt-mired halt and one developer bailed.
The city then chipped in $4.5 million in loans to revive construction and today, not even three years later, all but one of the 82 lofts at 360 W. 300 South are taken. City officials now tout the structure as a high-profile happy ending that proves the sales appeal of cool design and walkable neighborhoods.
More crucially, from the city's perspective, the development's urban sensibility, red-brick bones, vintage vertical lines and glass-dominated exterior give it an influential presence in a downtown area ripe for renewal.
"Our original reason for getting into it was to help resolve a problem in a very prominent location," said Matt Dahl, senior project manager for the city's Redevelopment Agency. "We wanted to make sure it was done in a quality fashion."
RDA officials offered praise for developer Micah Peters, CEO of ClearWater Homes, who took over after the original developer, Ken Milo, withdrew. Peters and his partners kicked in $2 million of their own, cleared up a tangle of liens on the property, revised blueprints, wrapped up construction and paid city loans back six months early.
"They faced a lot of challenges,'' Dahl said.
Ranging in price from $140,000 for studios to $1.3 million for penthouse units, the lofts set new records in downtown's condo market for prices paid per square foot. That, and the fact buyers have gobbled up scores of small, unabashedly modern lofts across from the city's most crime-vexed park, sends a strong statement to some people, not least the developer.
"The proof is in the pudding, as far as I'm concerned," said Peters, who is a leading member of the Pioneer Park Coalition, a group of businesses, landowners and social-service providers exploring issues related to downtown's homeless population.
"If people are willing to put their money where their mouth is, move down here and pay those prices," Peters said, "then they believe that the city and our group have the ability to remedy the problems that are apparent on the street."
The developer is a former suburban homebuilder for D.R. Horton and other national firms who says he wanted to break away from traditional single-family construction in favor of boutique architectural design. With Broadway Park Lofts, he said, innovative exterior elements are matched by touches inside the building.
"We wanted to be courageous enough to carry the modernism throughout," Peters said.
The eight-story building has a spacious inner courtyard with a multistory backlit waterfall, ground-level shops and rooftop patios. There is an abundance of glass walls, exposed fixtures and industrial finishes. Some units combine work and living spaces.
The smallest lofts are around 400 square feet, spread over two floors linked by a retractable staircase. Ceilings reach as high as 22 feet for a combined design that gives more weight to cubic volume than square footage.
"It's space for your head," Peters said.
Fifteen of the building's units sold the first week they were on the market. In a matter of months, Peters said, Broadway Park Lofts was drawing young couples, relocating executives, downsizing retirees and frequent travelers seeking centrally located crash pads.
"We thought we were going to have the millennium, software designer, tattoo kind of kid here," Peters said, "but it's really been all over the map."
In interviews, residents acknowledged concerns about safety, vagrancy and panhandling but said their purchase decisions were swayed more by the building's stylish features and central location in the heart of downtown.
"The best amenity is the view, then of course, location in a nice walkable area," said Mark Rogers, a Salt Lake City real estate agent who, after showing the condos to several clients, bought one of his own. "I literally don't see my car for days."
Other buyers sense they are part of a hip social experiment, highlighted by the Broadway Park Lofts' vaulting courtyard and other key design features that encourage residents to interact.
Mike Hatch loves his new 1,000-square-foot loft and surrounding living environment. The 35-year-old ad-agency art director regularly attends wine tastings with his partner and other residents in the courtyard.
"It still has that neighborhood feel," Hatch said, "even though it's downtown."
Drawn from diverse backgrounds and income levels, he said, the lofts' residents "all wanted to locate downtown and be part of a more social atmosphere rather than being separated by their houses and yards in the suburbs."