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Say goodbye to the "Sugar Hole."
It's been a long time coming, but developer Craig Mecham has secured financing to begin construction on a mixed-use project on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highland Drive (1100 East) and 2100 South in the heart of Sugar House.
About 4.5 acres there have been barren since 2009, following the economic downturn that halted many construction projects across the country as lending institutions braced for a meltdown. In the aftermath of the demolition of the old buildings at the site, critics derided the spot as the "Sugar Hole."
But soon, Sugar House Crossing will rise in its place, Mecham said Friday, thanks in part to a loan from the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency. Mecham closed a $5 million loan with the RDA during the final days of May. It outlines a 3 percent interest rate over 10 years.
The $53 million project also is funded by a $36 million loan from Wells Fargo Bank and an additional $12 million Mecham will sink into the project.
Sugar House Crossing will have about 45,000 square feet of ground-level retail space topped by some 210 apartments. The commercial space will be composed of local and chain businesses, according to Mecham's stated plan.
There also will be three levels of underground parking, with space to accommodate 500 vehicles.
"It's of major significance," said RDA Chairman and Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. (The City Council makes up the RDA board.) "It's going to turn Sugar House into an area like none other in Salt Lake City."
The Sugar Hole has been a real drag on local businesses, said Marcella Kirschbaum, who operates Deano's Hair Studio, just west of the planned development.
"We're all tired of the vacant lot. There is nothing going on there," she said. "Parking has been difficult and other merchants have moved out."
It's no surprise that Kirschbaum and others are looking forward to completion of a project that is expected to bring new life to the area. "I think it will be a whole new Sugar House," she said.
For his part, Mecham said the economic downturn made his Sugar House Crossing project much more difficult than he had anticipated.
"We had this all teed up and ready to go [in 2009]," he said. "Then the economy took a right turn and, like everyone else, we had to scrap our plan."
But things are looking brighter for the U.S. economy and for Sugar House, he said.
"This is a very exciting time. Sugar House is going through an awakening," he said referring to new developments and the planned trolley line from the TRAX station at 200 West in South Salt Lake to 1050 East in Sugar House. "This is going to be a turning point."
Mecham said his firm must still pull various building permits and he does not have a date certain for construction to begin, but it will be sometime this summer. He estimated the project will take 20 to 24 months to build.
"This is good news," he said. "This will be the center point of all of Sugar House."