Hey, if the Boyer Co. is already so keen on developing a large rail yard west of the Union Pacific Depot, Salt Lake City shouldn't be throwing money at it to do what it would have done anyway.
That's the attitude of Salt Lake City Councilwoman Joanne Milner, who says the city's Redevelopment Agency shouldn't involve itself in Boyer's proposed development."The whole catalyst is already occurring in that area," she said. "It's obvious that that is going to develop on its own."
Her arguments have fallen on deaf ears. The city's RDA board, which doubles as the City Council, this week voted to propose part of the Gateway area including the 40-acre rail yard as a redevelopment project area.
Milner wound up voting for the project area, but only after she insisted that board members stop referring to it as "the Boyer area" and similar appellations.
Specifically, the proposed project area comprises 170 acres, extending from 400 South to North Temple and from 300 West to I-15. Board members used a recently completed blight survey of 450 acres in the Gateway area as a basis for the designation.
The Gateway area extends roughly from 1000 South to North Temple and from 300 West to I-15.
The major factors contributing to blight include building decay, incompatible uses, inadequate streets and other infrastructure, and hazardous waste, such as oil, from the Gateway area's many industrial users.
Determining a redevelopment project area is "the next big step" in the rennaissance of the Gateway area, says RDA executive director Alice Steiner.
A project area designation enables the Redevelopment Agency to pump money into new development and infrastructure through low-interest loans, tax rebates, land purchases and other means - all of which would act as incentives to property owners and developers, including Boyer.
Boyer has not asked for any financial help from the city, Steiner said, but Milner contends that Salt Lake's administration, particularly Mayor Deedee Corradini, is too close to Boyer and that the development company is driving decisionmaking in the Gateway.
Notwithstanding Milner, and to some extent RDA board member Deeda Seed, board members said the Boyer development land is a legitimate candidate for redevelopment aid given the large amount of new infrastructure (mainly roads) needed in the area.
While developers are routinely required to build some roads as part of the approval process, "there's a limit to what (Boyer) can carry as far as infrastructure costs," Steiner said.
The developer tentatively plans a large mixed-use development of housing, retail businesses, a hotel and other uses. The Union Pacific Depot would become part of the hotel.
Salt Lake's RDA board will conduct hearings this summer to finalize the boundaries of the area deemed "blighted," as well as finalize the redevelopment project areas.
The Redevelopment Agency will have the power to condemn the property of uncooperative property owners within the project area, a power that historically has not gone over well with some residents.
Board members have indicated they want to establish another redevelopment project area in the Gateway area somewhere south of 600 South and between 300 West and I-15, though the area's exact boundaries won't be determined for a month or two. The Redevelopment Agency won't get involved in the area between 400 South and 600 South because of the I-15 viaduct shortening and other government activity.
"There's a fair amount of investment in the middle area without our involvement," Steiner said.