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With an assist from a well-known developer, Salt Lake City's mayor landed her preferred architect for two new homeless shelters.
Wednesday's meeting of Shelter the Homeless a nonprofit board that will own and oversee four shelters in the county's revamped homeless service model was a cheerier occasion than the group's May gathering.
Then, City Mayor and board member Jackie Biskupski had questioned the board's transparency after feeling ambushed when it tabled a vote on the city's proposed architect, A.J.C.
Wednesday night, after developer Kem Gardner negotiated on behalf of Shelter the Homeless and A.J.C. lowered its bid by $800,000 to an undisclosed amount, the board signed off. Shelter the Homeless Executive Director Janell Fluckiger said Thursday that the contract is still being finalized.
A.J.C. would not only design the two new 200-bed shelters in Salt Lake City one serving single women and another gender-segregated shelter that will likely house mostly men but also a shelter for single men in South Salt Lake.
Biskupski said she'd previously felt decisions were "being made somewhere behind closed doors by certain board members," but that "today is a good sign that we definitely have turned a corner and we're functioning much more like we should be."
Zions Bancorporation CEO Harris Simmons, the nonprofit board's chairman, said he felt there was "some misunderstanding that I'm not sure I totally get" that led to Biskupski's misgivings last month, which left Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox visibly exasperated.
"My head was spinning a little bit," Simmons said. "But I think whatever was causing that is not there [now]."
McAdams said the board had wanted to resolve concerns about A.J.C.'s cost. Following Gardner's intervention, McAdams said he's "happy now with the price that's been negotiated." A.J.C.'s was the lowest of three bids, Gardner said Wednesday. Another feather in A.J.C.'s cap, according to board discussion, is that it employs a consultant who has worked on more than 100 homeless shelters.
The board is tentatively scheduled to approve shelter design concepts in mid-August before presenting them at public meetings.
Other notes from Wednesday's meeting on the collective reform effort:
• South Salt Lake and Midvale (which hosts a currently operational, 300-bed family shelter that's owned by the board) now have seats at the table. In a closed-door vote, board members approved South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood and Midvale City Councilman Quinn Sperry for three-year terms, bringing the total number of board members to 15.
• Shelter the Homeless will soon become the "backbone" in the collaborative model, folding into its organization a homeless services committee that has been led for more than two years by the county. McAdams said the transition would take place over the group's summer meetings.
• Recent appointee Josh Romney has been placed in charge of supervising the board's development activities. Romney, a developer and a member of the Rio Grande area's Pioneer Park Coalition, owns an office property on Pierpont Ave. near the 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter but has no other holdings in the vicinity.
• Fluckiger, on loan to the board from Salt Lake County for a calendar year, told an inquiring Romney that she isn't interested in staying on as executive director after 2017. "That's not my strength," she said. "I'm here to ask a lot of questions and get everything in order." Fluckiger said the board will ideally have three or more full-time staff, with ongoing costs of $400,000 to $500,000 per year.
• The board may come to own Cowboy Partners' 315 E. 200 South "Magnolia" project. That structure would add 65 units of supportive housing to a Shelter the Homeless portfolio that also includes more than 200 units at Palmer Court and more than 30 at Wendell Apartments.
• Gardner's development company, in addition to serving as a consultant to the board, will also donate all project development fees for the three new shelters, and Jacobsen Construction will donate all preconstruction fees. Gardner said Wednesday that Cottonwood Title would also donate fees.
• Gardner made some board members squirm when he candidly recounted a conversation with Bishop Dean Davies, the first counselor in the LDS Church's Presiding Bishopric, about the proposed shelter site at the current Deseret Industries thrift store at 131 E. 700 South.
"He said, 'Kem, let's do it this way, you buy the ground, let me see what I need to do in the whole scope of what you have to do, and we'll make a very generous donation.'"
McAdams asked Gardner to save details of sensitive contract negotiations for the board's closed session, and Gardner asked himself, to laughter, "Why am I saying that in the public?"
"Exactly," McAdams said.
Biskupski looked toward media and added: "Just to be clear, the city is still working with the LDS Church."