Amy Choate-Nielsen: Lehi may get 450-foot hotel
Brainchild of Gehry would be tallest building in Utah
Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
LEHI Imagine driving south on I-15, gazing down at Utah Valley's flat farmlands and urban sprawl, then turning a corner and bam there's Utah's tallest building.
The proposed 450-foot high, five-star hotel is intended to be the icon for the 85-acre development that will include lakes, a sports arena, retail shops and mixed-use residential areas.
The brainchild of famed architect Frank Gehry, the building will surpass in height the state's other two 400-foot plus structures the LDS Church Office Building (435 feet) and the Wells Fargo Center (422 feet), both located in downtown Salt Lake City.
Creating an iconic structure possibly made of glass is the goal of 29-year-old entrepreneur Brandt Andersen, who has commissioned the project with the hopes that Gehry will design a community that will be a powerful landmark in Utah.
"What you see is the roof (of an arena), the iconic sort of hotel building, water coming through here it's meant to really stand out as almost like a piece of art coming into (Lehi) city or into Salt Lake County," Andersen said Wednesday, as he unveiled a model of the project for the first time.
Other icons of the project will be a 22-acre wakeboarding lake that sits in the middle of the property and a 500,000 square foot in-ground sports arena. The project, which boasts 70 percent open space, will also have retail, restaurants and 2,500 high-end housing units.
Parking will mostly be placed underground to make room for more greenery. Attached to the arena will be an amphitheater, which could be used for meditation or yoga, Andersen said. He emphasizes that the whole theme of the project is to encourage active living.
With wooden blocks and plastic walls used to represent the various buildings and square footage that will be associated with the project, it's hard to tell what the final product will actually look like. But Andersen guarantees it will be unique.
"The site flows, and it kind of moves," Andersen said. "The buildings will not be square boxes, not even close. There's not going to be any arguments over stone vs. stucco. You won't hear any of that. That's not me and that's not Frank."
Andersen doesn't know exactly how much the project will cost or what the buildings will be made of, but he estimates the final price tag will be in the billions. A bigger concern now is getting the city to approve a general plan amendment that would create a whole new zoning category in which Andersen's project could fit.
Andersen submitted the general plan change on Wednesday. Now the petition will go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing, then to the City Council for another public hearing. After the general plan is amended, the same process will follow for the zone change.
City planners say each process usually takes about six weeks.
Meanwhile, the public can view Gehry's model at the Lehi Hutchings Museum for the next three weeks and leave comments in a suggestion box. Andersen says he will also create a link on his Web site, gcodeventures.com, where people can send in their thoughts.
Lehi officials say they like what they are seeing.
"I thought things fit really well," City Councilman Mark Johnson said. "I never heard a negative comment about the design. It was certainly different than what I expected. I expected to see more curved and linear shapes ... but it is still a very unique design."
Andersen said Gehry took the idea for his design from some of Utah's beautiful places, such as the slot canyons in Zion's National Park. It also didn't hurt that Andersen pushed for an active, sports-related atmosphere that emphasizes some of Utah's favorite pastimes.
"I think when anyone who starts a community starts to envision what they're going to have in the community, some piece of them actually gets incorporated into that community," Andersen said. "What Frank has done, with our help, is a good representation of who we are and what we do."
Since Andersen has at times described his project as being a "gateway to Utah County," Utah Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau CEO Joel Racker says this project could mean good things for the county."I think people will be hard-pressed to say, 'What's there to do in Utah County?'" Racker said. "I think there is a perception that there is not a lot to do in Utah County, which I think is totally false. We're different from other areas in the state, and we are who we are in a very positive way. Salt Lake has its unique things that it has. Utah County has its unique attractions. I think the world is going to wake up to Utah County, and I think it's going to be good."
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