With the future of an unfinished housing complex hanging in the balance, Salt Lake City's redevelopment agency is asking for help from the public.

The agency has been wondering what to do with the half-built Pioneer Village Estates apartments - located between 300 and 400 South and 200 and 300 West on a lot known as Block 49 - since the agency bought them late last year.Officials mention ideas for the lot ranging from a theater to a hotel - the types of things that would revitalize an area with a reputation for transients and violence.

But inspectors recently toured the apartment buildings and found that, despite untreated wood being exposed to rain, snow and wind for about four years, the buildings don't need to be destroyed. With a little effort, the agency could complete the project.

"This is a great opportunity to come up with a final plan," Mayor Palmer DePaulis said Thursday. "I'll be satisfied if it's a good plan, whether it's just a housing project or is some other mixed-use development."

The city's redevelopment agency has hired the University of Utah Center for Public Policy and Administration to manage three informal brainstorming sessions with the public and a formal public hearing.

"We were asked to do this in order to ensure objectivity," said Eugene Carr, the center's community development adviser.

Before going bankrupt, the developer borrowed $13.5 million in bond money issued by the Salt Lake Housing Authority underthe condition that 20 percent of the units built be for low-income and elderly tenants. The redevelopment agency still is bound by that condition.

The apartment project has caused city officials problems almost from its inception. The building sits on what was a long-forgotten pioneer cemetery from the city's earliest years. Construction workers uncovered the remains of 32 pioneers in 1986 while digging a foundation for the project.

The redevelopment agency paid for Brigham Young University archaeologists to quickly excavate the area while construction crews waited. They also found two Fremont Indian pit houses on the site as well as the remains of Indians. Archaeologists believe the area contains more remains, but they were forced to stop excavating because of a lack of funds.


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Have a solution?

The public is invited to give its opinions on the future of Block 49 at sessions to be held:

- Tuesday, April 23

- Tuesday, April 30

- Tuesday, May 7

All session will be from 2 to 6 p.m. in the ground-level meeting room of the Rio Grande Depot, 455 W. 300 South. A public hearing examining the ideas will be May 15 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 415 S. State.