You know what happens to Superman when he steps into a phone booth. It's a transformation that sends every villain rushing for a chunk of Kryptonite.
But what has Superman done for the business community (except for owners of Kryptonite boutiques)? How has he helped developers or city governments wishing to enhance their commercial tax base?No offense to the alien with the big "S" on his chest, but a more significant metamorphosis occurs when a light-rail passenger steps off a train. Instantly, that mass transit rider turns into . . . a pedestrian.
And as business leaders and government officials around the country are learning, pedestrians can do a lot more for economic development than any quick-changing, bullet-stopping super hero.
Hundreds of mortals with a super-human interest in bettering their communities will come to Salt Lake City on Thursday for a one-day conference to learn what mass transit passengers can do for the local economy. The Transit-Oriented Joint Development Workshop will be held 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Little America Hotel, 500 S. Main.
Federal Transit Administrator Gordon Linton, Utah Transit Authority General Manager John Inglish and other speakers will tell participants it doesn't take X-ray vision to see that pedestrian traffic from light-rail stations can provide a customer base for a variety of development, from retail shops to office and housing complexes.
The Federal Transit Administration recently revamped its transit-oriented development guidelines, making them more flexible to encourage redevelopment around bus and light-rail transit stations. That new policy will be detailed at the workshop. The conference is being sponsored by the agency's planning office, the UTA and the American Public Transit Association.
UTA expects at least 15,000 will ride its Transit Express (TRAX) each day when it begins operation in March 2000. UTA and local governments along the 15-mile route want to be in position to take economic advantage.
Even though many light-rail passengers-turned-pedestrians will quickly change into motorists or bus riders, the stop at a TRAX station will expose them to whatever is in the area. If that happens to be a restaurant or a business, they won't have to park the car to get in the front door.
"That's where transit-oriented development comes in - trying to make an environment that is more sympathetic to the pedestrian," said Hal Johnson, a UTA planner. "Light rail is not a freeway interchange, but it's just another way of providing access to people, and businesses can use that to their advantage. It doesn't matter how the (customer) gets there as long as they've got money in their pockets."
UTA staffers have been alerting developers and city officials to the potential of transit-oriented development. For the most part, people are listening.
UTA planners, for example, were able to convince a South Salt Lake developer to reorient the physical location of two planned retail stores so they won't face away from the TRAX station at 2100 South. A joint project also is planned to build sidewalks from the rail station to the stores, making it easier for TRAX passengers to become customers.
Salt Lake City envisions a revitalized Main Street once TRAX begins touring the center of that street. Murray officials are centering a 140-acre development around the planned TRAX station at Vine Street. And Sandy planners are excited about prospects for development around the system's southern terminus.
Here is a quick glance at the potential for transit-oriented development around the 16 TRAX stations:
Salt Lake City
Five of the city's south TRAX stations are in the heart of downtown with little vacant land surrounding them. But that doesn't mean new development won't occur. The city is spending millions of dollars to enhance the downtown light-rail corridor of Main Street and South Temple.
"We're going in and redoing the sidewalks in granite and replacing all of those precast concrete planters, (adding) all new street furniture and cool new drinking fountains and landscaping," said Alison Gregersen, the city's deputy director of community and economic development.
The TRAX line begins on South Temple at 400 West with a station stop beside the Delta Center and only a few hundred feet from the essentially vacant Union Pacific Depot, a prime candidate for redevelopment. The Triad Center also may expand as light rail and the city's Gateway project perk interest in the west side, Gregersen said.
The Temple Square station will be near the current Greyhound bus terminal. Greyhound, though, will move its operations west to the city's intermodal transportation center, leaving that building open to a new use. The three Main Street stops are near several large developments now under way, including the American Stores Tower and the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse. In addition to a new hotel, it is hoped that many of the vacant storefronts along Main will soon house restaurants and other retail services that have been successful along downtown light-rail routes in other cities.
The city's fifth station is at about 1300 South near Franklin Quest Field. There, UTA and city planners are envisioning a sort of urban renewal with old homes being fixed up and new multifamily housing complexes going in. Some property nearby is already zoned for high-density development, but UTA property manager Richard Swenson admits, "I don't think developers have caught the vision yet."
South Salt Lake
The Central Pointe station will be built next to Office Depot and two soon-to-be-constructed "big box" retail stores (tenants to be announced). Because of the station's proximity, the city gave the developer a break on the number of parking spaces it was required to build. There is little undeveloped land around the Millcreek station at 3300 South but plenty of opportunities for redevelopment.
Salt Lake County
The as-yet unnamed station at 3900 South will serve as a major transfer hub for UTA buses and could include up to 550 park-and-ride stalls. UTA may not need all of the 71/2 acres it is buying for bus bays and parking spaces, however, and might open the remainder for development.
The biggest chunk of land near the Murray North station at 4500 South is a 20-acre parcel now used by Simpson Steel Fabricators & Erectors Inc. Another 15 acres of undeveloped land is on an old smelter site and contains some environmental hurdles.
Easily the largest transit-oriented development now envisioned along the 15-mile route is a planned 140-acre mix of stores, office and professional buildings near the Murray Central stop north of 5300 South. UTA owns nearly 5 acres in the same area it might sell or swap for development.
The Fashion Place stop at 6400 South could be served by a shuttle bus going to and from Fashion Place.
City officials are interested in developing several acres south of the Midvale Fort Union station that UTA now owns, but even more potential for development exists south of the Midvale Center stop. There, UTA owns 28 acres along State Street where it once planned to build its light-rail maintenance facility. UTA planners say it will take a cooperative effort since parts of the land are in Midvale, Sandy and Salt Lake County.
The city is developing a master plan for the area around its Historic Sandy station at 9000 South, where many single-family homes are located. The area is likely to remain residential in character but could undergo a positive face lift, especially if light rail increases property values in the area as planners predict. The city is open to office and retail development around the TRAX terminus at the Sandy Civic Center station.