Published on July 1st, 2014 | by UC&D Magazine0
Sugar House Rising
Craig Mecham can finally exhale.
After an exhausting, patience-testing process, the owner of Salt Lake-based Mecham Management and developer of the Sugar House Crossing project, is thrilled at the prospect of opening his mixed-use complex to the public September 8.
“It feels very good to be candid with you,” said Mecham. “It’s been eight years in this process; it’s had its ups and downs. But the pendulum has swung the other way and the feedback we’re getting is positive on all levels. We think we have a nice project.”
Sugar House Crossing is a $42 million, 470,000 SF mixed-use retail/multi-family project that sits in the heart of Sugar House’s main business district – once the furniture hub of Utah – at the corner of 2100 South-1100 East/Highland. It is one of three major retail/multi-family projects currently under construction, all within a stone’s throw from each other.
This flurry of construction activity – in addition to the recently completed Sugar House Streetcar – signifies a revival of sorts for the area, infamously known as the home of the ‘Sugar Hole’ during the recession but one destined to be a major TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) hub in Salt Lake City.
“What is going on in Sugar House is as exciting as anything that has happened in the valley in years,” said Lisa Adams, Salt Lake City Council District 7 Representative.
“The City is committed to having great open space, TOD, lots of options for how to get there and what they can do. It’s a great place to live and people want to be there.”
“Sugar House is awakening, exploding actually,” said Mecham, who had to shutter his project when the recession hit. “Initially it was going to be offices and condos, but we had a struggle with…financing,” said Mecham. “In hindsight it was a blessing in disguise as we avoided the deep recession time from 2008-10.”
Mecham’s familial roots in Sugar House run deep. He said his mother’s family – the Dixon’s – were one of four families who settled the area at the turn of the 20th Century and were the “movers and shakers” of establishing a community.
Grandfather George Dixon owned Hyland Lumber, a building Mecham worked in as a boy, and later bought in the 70’s from family members. He began acquiring other property in the area from the early- 80’s to mid-90’s, including the Southeast Furniture building and a parcel next to it.
Sugar House Crossing includes nine levels, including three below-ground parking levels (449 stalls, 186,000 SF) and six above ground. The 65,800 SF retail level on the main floor will include 15 retail stores, five of which are restaurants. The remaining five levels are apartments – 211 units ranging from studio to 3-bedroom. The exterior is an EIFS system (thin brick over foam insulation), and concrete slabs included nearly 6.5 million ft. of post tension cable, according to Salt Lake-based Okland Construction.
The Allure of TOD
There is no question the ‘S’ Line drives the concept of a TOD community, and developers are banking on the area thriving as a community that favors a pair of Chuck Taylor sneakers and a UTA Trax pass over a set of Michelin tires as its preferred mode of transportation.
There are two notable projects under construction where the ‘S’ Line ends on Sugarmont Drive. One is Liberty Village on McClelland St., a 171-unit, 265,000 SF multi-family project developed by Cowboy Partners of Salt Lake City, and built by Ogden-based R&O Construction. It is slated to complete near the end of 2014.
The other is West Station Apartments on Wilmington Ave. between Highland Drive and 1300 East. Developed by Henderson Development of Salt Lake and built by Draper-based Pentalon Construction, this $10.9 million, 4-story project includes 120,000 SF and 145-units, with an exterior of stucco, thin brick,
metal paneling and hardy. It will conclude in August 2015. Richardson Design Partnership of Salt Lake City designed both Sugar House Crossing and West Station Apartments.
A fourth major mixed-use development, directly across from Liberty Village, is also slated to begin in 2014. Phase II of 2100 Sugarhouse, developed by Salt Lake-based Boulder Ventures Development, will include the refurbishment of the former Leisure Living building and the demolition of the old Granite Furniture warehouse building with a new structure built in its place. The firm declined to comment on project specifics at this time.
Boulder Ventures completed Phase I of 2100 Sugarhouse last year, a mixed-use development that required a challenging renovation of the old Granite Furniture building. The building includes a string of new restaurants on the main floor, and retail/office space on the second and third floors.
Dan Lofgren, a Partner with Cowboy Partners, said the area is prime for future growth and development, especially along the ‘S’ Line as TOD trends upward.
“We started looking at Sugarhouse 7-8 years ago; we’ve been keen on that area for a long time,” said Lofgren, a Partner with Cowboy Partners. “The opportunity
to acquire this site arose when Boulder Ventures made it available. (Liberty Village) will be a great amenity to the neighborhood and a nice compliment to their retail.
“When the ‘S’ Line became a reality it dramatically enhanced the neighborhood as a development locale, but we had made a commitment to that neighborhood and would have proceeded with or without it,” Lofgren added. “It sets the neighborhood up for real constructive development in the next decade or so.”
Residents along the ‘S’ Line have voiced varied opinions about what future development should entail. Adams said current zoning laws would allow for structures up to 105 ft. tall along the transit line’s ‘core’ area, and 45 ft. tall on the ‘edges’ (or any part that is adjacent to residences).
“By the end of 2014 we should have made decisions, but a lot of people want something done by the end of summer,” said Adams, adding that an environmental impact study has been funded to gauge impact on neighborhoods for a future extension of the ‘S’ Line (likely to run north on 1100 East).