As crews prepare to demolish deteriorating buildings on Block 29, the City Council is seriously considering new plans to revitalize the lethargic downtown.
Bountiful architect Don Johnson and the partnership of Johansen-Thackeray and Co. are vying to be the council's next choice for developing the block bordered by Main and 100 West and by Center Street and 100 South.Though no agreements have been signed yet, the city is leaning toward Johansen-Thackeray, which developed Foothill Village in Salt Lake City.
Johansen-Thackeray is proposing a 180,000 square-foot retail development that would include Block 29 and the blocks north and south of it. Four major "anchor tenants" would be located in the project along with 15 to 18 smaller tenants.
John Thackeray told the City Council recently that several major Foothill Village tenants are "very interested" in locating stores in Bountiful, whose demographics compare to the community surrounding Foothill.
"We think there are some real possibilities to do some very fun things downtown," Thackeray said.
The proposal submitted by Johnson, who was the author of the Lake Wasatch idea, calls for a multistoried, circular building that would host a variety of businesses, from a night school such as the University of Phoenix to retail stores.
Johnson's plan has failed to stir much enthusiasm among the City Council and Mayor Bob Linnell, who almost skipped Johnson in Wednesday's RDA board meeting.
Linnell, who fought last year to save the RDA after the last developer failed, said he favors the Johansen-Thackeray plan.
"This is a sound proposal," Linnell told Thackeray during the board meeting Wednesday. "If you can make it work, it's an answer to what the community wants this board to do."
Besides the success Johansen-Thackeray has had with Foothill Village, what impresses the city most about the company's proposal is that the company is willing to purchase additional property on its own and assume some major risk in financing.
"The burden is on them to perform," said City Manager Tom Hardy, who recommended that the RDA board, which is the City Council, sign an option agreement with Johansen-Thackeray.
Also appealing to the city are clauses within the proposed agreement that would give the RDA several opportunities to terminate the agreement if the RDA determines the developer has not met the agreement's conditions.
The city's lack of control over the last developer's failure was one of the sore spots that prompted the City Council to vote last September to abolish the RDA and sell its downtown properties.
That developer, Town Center Associates, was unable in the 11th hour to get financing for its project. It was the fourth such failure in the past decade, prompting the City Council to vote 3-2 to abolish the RDA.
But after learning of numerous legal and financial obstacles, the City Council reversed itself, voting to retain the RDA and try to find another developer.
In the meantime, the council decided to have the east-facing buildings on Block 29 demolished. The tenants of those buildings must vacate by Jan. 15.
If Johansen-Thackeray get a positive nod soon by the City Council, the company would aim for a September 1992 opening. Thackeray said a major obstacle is going to be finding a bank willing to take a risk on the project.
"With the S&L crisis, I don't know of any lines of financing that are secure," Thackeray said. "Financing has never been tougher."