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Amelia Nielson-Stowell: South Jordan is thriving in recession, thanks to savvy planning

Published: Monday, Nov. 2 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

The number of new housing units in South Jordan last year was eight times that of its neighbors. Plus it's the only south valley city to see an increase in sales-tax revenue.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SOUTH JORDAN — When Andrea and Spencer Coles moved to Utah, the southwest end of the valley really wasn't an option. It took a visit to a friend's home in South Jordan for them to change their minds.

"South Jordan feels different than a lot of the west side," Andrea said. "There's a really clean feel to the city. They make it look really nice. It's a really great community without being uptight."

In 2008, the couple moved into South Jordan's Daybreak community. Now parents to a 1-year-old, they are thrilled to call the south valley suburb home.

"We really love it," added Andrea, a Texas native and BYU graduate. "I really didn't expect liking living in Utah again, but I do."

The Coles' conversion to the city is the same story of many residents — and businesses. If you want evidence the recession is slowing down in Utah, look no farther than South Jordan. Dozens of developments in the city seemingly pop up overnight, so new that you can almost smell the fresh paint.

"I've had my eye on the location there for four years," said Dan Hansen, owner and manager of Boston Deli. The Salt Lake City-based restaurant and catering service is adding a second location right off I-15 in South Jordan, scheduled to open in the next few weeks.

Boston Deli is just one of many businesses locating in a South Jordan retail center. With trendy names like The District and SoDa Row, South Jordan is aiming to stay ahead of the pack on cutting-edge development.

Doing so has transitioned the city from a sleepy bedroom community to the new anchor of the south valley.

Ask Brian Preece why South Jordan has maintained strong growth in an economic downturn and he'll try to answer without sounding arrogant.

"The city has had a very high standard for residential and commercial developments. People want to live here," said Preece, the city's director of long-term planning and sustainability.

In the midst of a national economic crisis, South Jordan is the only south valley city increasing its sales-tax revenue.

"I believe South Jordan is and will continue to be the hub of the southwest valley," said Wade Williams, director of retail development for The Boyer Co., which owns the 12-acre, mixed-use development The District off Bangerter Highway and 11400 South.

"From a retail perspective, the South Jordan area is a 'sweet spot' in the valley," Williams said. "Good income levels, young population, growing residential base."

It's the expedited approval process that wins over many developers. Williams said the city has a philosophy of a "win-win type process." Rather than losing a developer in the lengthy application and permit process, South Jordan shrinks it.

Long public hearings are eliminated (unless a resident complains), time is not wasted in front of the City Council for routine reviews, and the city aims for customer service.

"We have a relationship all the way through," Preece said. "It doesn't end once everything's been signed. That's unprecedented. We've got them, and we don't forget about them."

Major companies including Ultradent, Merit Medical and MonaVie all have their headquarters in South Jordan. The University of Utah also plans to build a satellite hospital on 50 acres in Daybreak.

A future Mid-Jordan TRAX line, a FrontRunner stop and the Mountain View Corridor freeway are all adding to the city's pockets of development, which will center on the transit lines and main roads such as 11400 South and 10600 South.

Visionary growth

Barely a few thousand people were living in the rural city when Kent Money moved to South Jordan 26 years ago. Money bought a 2-acre parcel off Redwood Road, one surrounded by hayfields and frequented by pheasants.

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