This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Station Park the open-air shopping, office and community hub in west Farmington is thriving these days while several other Wasatch Front malls continue to struggle.
Opened in 2011, the northern Utah retail complex west of Interstate 15 has hit such a healthy stride, in fact, that the California real estate developer behind it is now pursuing a similar project in Riverton and on a much larger scale.
Officials with CenterCal Properties are nearing final city review of their plans for an 85-acre retail complex called Mountain View Place at Riverton to be located at the northeastern corner of 13400 South and Mountain View Corridor (about 4800 West).
After passage Thursday by Riverton's Planning Commission, the company's master plan now goes before the City Council.
Like Station Park, the new Riverton center is envisioned as a mix of shopping outlets, restaurants, offices, a hotel, movie theaters and villagelike public spaces, all perched on the suburban city's western border with Herriman.
If CenterCal's plan is approved, work will begin sometime next year, with the first major buildings sprouting by spring 2017 on what has been open farmland.
Elected officials say the project has the potential to transform Riverton, Herriman and neighboring cities across southwestern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County.
"I wish I could say I put this all together," said a delighted Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth. "But all I did was shake my head yes."
Applegarth and other leaders in Riverton and Farmington say CenterCal, with backing from the California schoolteachers' pension fund, has a history of going well-beyond retail and office space development for quick profit.
After months of talks, Riverton officials are confident the developer is taking a careful and long-term approach, focused on creating a durable community gathering place that matches and fosters its host city's culture and identity.
Throughout the process, Riverton leaders have been studying Station Park closely for glimpses of what their own future might hold.
"They listen to the city," Farmington City Manager Dave Millheim said of CenterCal. "We've had a great relationship."
'Lifestyle center' • The Station Park site was akin to an open field five years ago.
An in-depth economic study concluded that Farmington's economic base was too skewed away from retail after years of what Millheim called "a bedroom community mindset," which saw residents taking their shopping dollars to Ogden or Salt Lake City. At the same time, city leaders remained wary for years about unleasing rapid growth in Farmington.
When Station Park was proposed, many of Utah's commercial real estate experts voiced skepticism, based partly on concerns over its Davis County location. Today, CenterCal officials acknowledge the retail center lacked name recognition early on.
But the word is out now, say the mall's managers, who point to a 90 percent occupancy rate of office and retail spaces. Covering 62 acres, Station Park ranks among Utah's trendier new shopping centers, sometimes mentioned in the same league as the LDS Church-backed $1.5 billion-plus City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
And while its vast and frequently packed parking lot speaks of traditional car-centric shopping patterns, the Farmington "lifestyle center" is also touted as a transit-oriented development, thanks to its proximity to a FrontRunner station.
'Live, work, play' • Station Park has fewer stores and restaurants than nearby Layton Hills Mall in Layton or Newgate Mall in Ogden, but it spreads those tenants over a larger footprint, giving the development an open, spacious feel.
Besides recruiting a diverse blend of shops, eateries and a Harmons grocery store the chain's only outlet in Davis County Station Park has landed other key nonretail tenants. The roster includes a 108-room Hyatt Place Hotel, a 14-screen movie theater, a University of Utah medical facility, a Weber State University campus and several high-profile corporate headquarters, including those of the global online training company Pluralsight and outdoor-product maker Vista Outdoor.
Highly popular outdoor retailer Cabela's announced in December it will open its second Utah store in Park Lane Commons, next to Station Park, in spring 2016. A Mercedes automotive dealership is set to debut nearby. More than 700 luxury apartments are either up or under construction on surrounding land.
"It's become more than just a place to shop," said Lew Cramer, president and CEO of the real-estate firm Coldwell Banker Commercial Advisors, exclusive broker for Station Park's office space.
"It has the amenities," Cramer said, "to live, work and play in one centralized location."
Taxable sales in Farmington have jumped from about $20 million per quarter in early 2011 to $68 million earlier this year, according to Utah Tax Commission numbers. Millheim calls Station Park the most successful redevelopment project in Utah history, noting that the city paid off its related tax debts 10 years ahead of schedule.
The added sales-tax revenues, he said, have allowed Farmington to forestall property-tax hikes while expanding city personnel, services and facilities.
Community 'living room' • Beyond money, Millheim and others say, Station Park has emerged as a social-gathering place. The complex boasts a family-oriented theme and is lined with trees and grassy areas. Fountain Square, at the complex's heart, features an event lawn, play areas and a programmed show fountain. Station Park holds public concerts and get-togethers each week.
"The fountain is the best cheap date in Farmington," Millheim said.
CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning said his company has the same goals of place-making, sensitivity to area values and top-quality amenities for its Riverton venture.
"We want to create a living room for the community," Bruning said. "We want to make sure there's something for everybody.
"Our buildings tend to be smaller, more multifunctional, higher quality," he said. "Barring some major upheaval in the community, I think the functionality will last for generations."
Bruning said CenterCal was approached about building in Riverton in May 2014 by officials with Suburban Land Reserve and Property Reserve Inc., both real-estate investment arms of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Utah-based faith owned the property where Mountain View Place is to be located, along with large swaths of adjacent land, he said, and was encouraging the site's development as a retail center.
"We were fortunate enough to be chosen," Bruning said.
The property also could end up connected to light rail, according to a 2010 study of potential east-west transit routes through that portion of the county.
Patient money • Founded in 2004, CenterCal Properties is a joint venture with the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), which manages nearly $184 billion in pension assets for more than 868,000 Golden State educators and their families. CalSTRS describes its investment philosophy as "long-term patient capital, buying long-term net cash flows ... at a reasonable price."
That informs partner CenterCal's long view of its real estate developments, according to Bruning. CalSTRS officials and the teachers they serve, the CEO said, "tend to care about community, they care about quality, and they care about sustainability."
CenterCal has built eight retail centers in addition to Station Park: four in Oregon, two in Idaho (in Meridian and Nampa) and one each in California and Washington state. Billed these days as one of the most active retail developers in the West, the El Segundo, Calif.-based company has five new shopping centers on the drawing board, including the one in Riverton.
'Gift to the city' • Bruning noted that in 10 years of partnering with CalSTRS, CenterCal has never sold one of its developments.
"That doesn't mean we won't," he said, "but if we do, it will be for strategic reasons and not just because we want to be a merchant builder."
The Riverton City Council could vote as soon as Oct. 20 on CenterCal's development plans.
To hear some elected leaders tell it, Mountain View Place is a stroke of good fortune for the city, one that could fulfill long-held dreams of developing Riverton's west end and creating a closer place to shop for residents who now drive to Herriman or to The District in South Jordan. By bookending Riverton with commercial development on its east and west flanks, city officials say it could help overcome geographic separation in the suburban community of 41,460 people.
Councilman Sheldon Stewart said his constituents "will have a place that connects us with the rest of the city."
"That's all I've ever wanted," said Stewart, who grew up in Riverton.
Long known as Hamilton Farms, the open acreage where Mountain View Place is slated to go "is the last piece of land we have," said Councilwoman Tricia Tingey, whose late husband, LeRoy "Roy" Tingey, represented the area for many years.
"What this really is, is a gift to the city," she said. "And it's going to be well-done."