After months of intensive work and years of background effort, the massive Gateway area finally has a blueprint for growth.
The Salt Lake City Council passed a master plan Tuesday for the 650-acre area between 300 West and I-15 in the Pioneer Park area that projects a mixed-use area of residences, businesses, cultural facilities, retail shops, offices and hotels.However, "this is (only) the first step," said Councilwoman Deeda Seed. "The steps that come after will be much, much harder."
A two-hour public hearing preceded the council's decision to pass the plan, which came recommended to them by the city's Planning Commission. The 36 speakers were about evenly divided between housing advocates who view the Gateway as a marvelous opportunity to give the city some much-needed affordable housing, and business owners in the downtown and Gateway areas who view the grandiose Gateway plans with emotions ranging from trepidation to outright lip-trembling, knee-knocking, nail-biting fear.
The housing advocates wanted the City Council to amend the plan to specifically require 20 percent of the Gateway housing to be affordable.
To elaborate, they proposed that at least 10 percent of all housing in the Gateway area be affordable to households making 80 percent or less of the average income, and another 10 percent to those making 50 percent or less of the average income.
Average income in the Salt Lake City/Og-den area is $48,200.
"This is something that is easy for you to do," said resident Kay Fox. "We want things to be affordable, we want things to be available, we want things to be accessible." (Accessibility for the disabled was also discussed.)
While the plan contains general references to affordable housing, the council declined to commit itself to a specific percentage, saying the broad outlines of a master plan are not the place for such binding details.
"A master plan, I think, should not reflect any particular number," said Councilman Roger Thompson.
Planning Director William Wright noted that putting a number in the master plan without careful research could lead to indefensible lawsuits from developers unhappy with the requirement.
In any case, Stephen Caine of the Boyer Co. reaffirmed the company's commitment to provide 20 percent of affordable housing in its vast new development on 40 acres of land west of the Union Pacific Depot.
Mayor Deedee Corradini noted the city's administration has long used an 80/20 percentage affordable housing distribution in new housing developments, though that number changes somewhat in practice.
The concerns downtown business owners expressed can be summed up in these two words: ghost town. That's what they're afraid the downtown business district will become once the Gateway is up and running, with retail businesses there siphoning off their already marginal profits.
"We must take care of the retail space we have now," said Boyd Ware of Deseret Book, speaking for the Downtown Retail Merchants Association.
Gateway advocates say Gateway development will enlarge the pie rather than taking from Peter's piece to make Paul's bigger.
Current Gateway business owners said they were worried that they would be left behind in the mad rush to redevelop the Gateway, getting their businesses taken away from them without regard to years or decades of residence in the area and without adequate compensation, while big developers get government incentives to come in and destroy everything they've worked for.
Corradini's response: "Any time you have a major proposition or a major change people are concerned. It's scary."
She declined to get into the details of how specific business redevelopment will be handled, saying it will be taken on a case-by-case basis. The master plan states that small, independently owned businesses will be offered incentives and will be supported in the redevelopment process.
Contrary to popular misconception, the Gateway development will not be geared to the 2002 Winter Games. The Boyer project will be done by then, but not much more. Full development of the area will likely take several decades.