This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.


Planners, developers and local governments are staring at two very large blank canvases along the Wasatch Front and realizing they have almost unparalleled opportunities to do it right. Or to get it wrong.

And they are asking for your help.

The higher-profile of the two is at what's known as Point of the Mountain, a stretch of the rapidly developing territory along I-15 where Salt Lake County and Utah County meet. Specifically, it is the land that is now covered by the Utah State Prison complex, an institution the Legislature has decreed will move to a new site, near Salt Lake International Airport, leaving behind an expanse of highly desirable land to be developed in any number of ways.

The ad hoc state agency in charge of deciding what happens next, the Point of the Mountain Development Commission, has wisely hired the nonprofit agency Envision Utah to handle the overall planning for the site. And Envision Utah, as is its wont, has opened up the process for maximum public input.

Information about the process, and a portal to make suggestions, is available now online at

Points to weigh are innumerable. And opposing interests may well collide. Obviously, the potential for high-profit ventures is huge and, given the resulting tax base and employment growth, not unwelcome. But with this much prime land in play, the opportunities to make it into a showcase of mixed-used, sustainable, efficient and livable land uses are large and not to be ignored.

What the wider area needs, and what this site is uniquely able to provide, includes open space, public facilities such as museums, libraries and recreation centers, and easy access to government services such as auto licenses and voter registration. Satellite facilities for the University of Utah and/or Utah Valley University should be in the mix.

Such a large area of development will also trigger demands for increased public services, from streets and public transit to public safety and, of course, schools. Rapid development in nearby areas has already stretched public schools to the breaking point; provisions to fund the needed new schools must be part of the plan.

And what may be the greatest human need throughout the region, affordable housing, must not be forgotten. When planners factor that into the area's plan from the beginning, rather than trying to squeeze it in later, they gain the best chance to create the sort of affordable housing that doesn't look like affordable housing.

The same concerns are evident as Salt Lake City makes plans for the inevitable development of the land near the new prison site. City officials have hired a consultant and are developing their own ideas.

The formal acceptance of public input has not yet begun. But it will, and we should all be ready to have our say.

Both areas provide substantial opportunities and considerable chances for failure. Pay attention.