Published on September 20th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine0
Raising the Multi-Family Bar
Once a forgotten corner, the block between 200 North and 300 North at 400 West is becoming a hip new downtown Salt Lake City mecca.
In a state that draws adventure enthusiasts like moths to a flame, 4th West’s one-acre rooftop is a natural extension of Utah’s great outdoors. Boasting a zero-edge swimming pool, yoga studio, fitness center and a full-size tennis court doubling as a basketball court, the unique outdoor space is also attracting athletes of a different variety.
“(Utah) Jazz players are choosing 4th West,” said Thomas Vegh, Managing Partner at Salt Lake-based Salt Development, without disclosing who or how many.
“We’ve had to replace some of the backboards already.”
Located a few blocks from the Jazz’s home – Vivint Smart Home Arena – their choice of locale is a natural one. The proximity of the five-story complex to such notable downtown landmarks is proving to be a draw, which wasn’t always the case in some areas.
“People in Salt Lake City had passed over the location,” said Vegh. “We had a different perspective on what could happen here, seeing that is was close to
light rail and also the arena.” Vegh said the purchase of Gateway by New York-based Vestar Capital Partners was viewed as a “wonderful opportunity to offer something that Salt Lake City hadn’t seen.”
With a six-story, 596-stall parking garage at its center, the sizeable complex features 493 units spread out over 549,000 SF of ‘living space’, with a plethora of world- class amenities and spectacular design elements throughout each of the spaces. This includes the sky lounge, clubhouse, sports club, health club, villas bar/kitchen, and business center. Apartment styles are sleek and modern, with wood-style floors, extended balconies, and stainless steel appliances offered in studio, 1- and 2-bedroom floor plans.
The sheer size of the project offered plenty of daily challenges to the general contractor and subs during a two-year, two- month construction process.
Kenny Alldredge, General Superintendent at Wasatch Commercial Builders of Salt Lake, said his team approached the project in phases, given the high number of units.
“493 units is not typical,” said Alldredge. “It’s a lot bigger than most multi-family projects, especially for one building. Really, the project feels like three projects in one.”
Wasatch completed 223 units in the north section, and then finished up the middle and south sections. During the height of construction, 350 to 400 men worked on site.
In order to build in phases Wasatch needed special permission from the Salt Lake City Fire Department. All parties worked together on a 120-page safety plan to ensure occupant safety of the first wave of tenants.
“The fire department’s number one priority was to keep current residents safe during construction,” said Alldredge. “We had to protect residents from going into construction (zones) at any time. We had to have our sprinkler system and alarm fully functional by the time we phased. We had a certain number of (unoccupied) units that were completely finished. If there was a fire in the construction zone, those units would buffer the residents.”
Construction was not the only phase of the project to move quickly. Planning and permitting were also on a tight timeline to take advantage of the city’s moratorium on impact fees. The moratorium was adopted in late 2015 so the city government could spend a year evaluating how to best charge and spend the fees, which cover growth-driven costs of public services such as parks, roads, and fire and police departments.
With impact fees suspended, developers were able to save significant costs during this period and 4th West was no exception, saving nearly $1.5 million.
“We were under the gun to get the plans in place and get the permit by a certain date,” said Guillaume Belgique, President and Founder of Architecture Belgique in Midvale, designer of the project. “We started conversations [with the developer] at the end of 2013. By the first part of 2014, we were into the design. It was less than a year and a half before we got the permit.”
Though the moratorium was a welcome stroke of luck, the project had its share of roadblocks. As with any major development, unexpected impediments
emerged during the construction process.
“We had groundwater issues because of the water table,” said Vegh. “Those are the unknowns when you go to dig a hole. We worked hand-in-hand and were there every day to work with the contractor and subcontractors.”
“It’s like building a custom home, but on a huge scale,” added Alldredge. “The advantage is that we had owners on site to answer questions as quickly as possible.”
Salt Development’s hands-on approach was key to its success, as was its long-term vision, despite early skepticism.
“We discovered that the debt markets didn’t appreciate the location to the level we did,” said Vegh. “We had a lot of naysayers early on asking why would we build any multi-family in this part of town. We faced quite a lot of opposition.”
Now, the tune has changed. “It is the highest rental price in town, but it is filling up like crazy,” said Belgique. “It’s turned out to be the right debt,” agreed Vegh.
Considering how this premiere development might shape the future of the multi-family sector in Utah, everyone interviewed agreed it has set a high bar that others will seek to emulate.
“Every new client that comes to us says, ‘We know you did 4th West and it’s amazing.’ It’s developed its own reputation,” said Belgique. “ People have
toured it and asked, ‘Can we do that’?’”
“I honestly think (developers) will try to copy what they’ve done,” said Alldredge, but other (buildings) will have a hard time duplicating the skyline view. You can see the entire downtown – that’s rare and an amazing feature. It feels like you’re in a little resort.”