Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Artist rendering of proposed development in Sugar House

Development plans for the southwest corner of 2100 South and Highland Drive are on hold again — this time courtesy of the Salt Lake City Planning Commission.

Citing concerns about pedestrian access, traffic and cohesiveness with neighboring development plans, the Planning Commission late Wednesday night put off making a decision on Craig Mecham's planned 4 1/2-acre development of residential, retail and office space until Aug. 13 at the soonest.

"I think the project is moving in the right direction, but there are still some concerns that need to be addressed," Commissioner Mary Woodhead said. "This is a critical project. I think it's important that we think this through and do it right."

The plans call for construction of two side-by-side buildings — a seven-story office structure and an eight-story residential building — with street-level retail and three levels of underground parking containing 491 stalls.

The two buildings would share about 37,000 square feet of retail space — most of it fronting 2100 South or Highland Drive — to be filled by as many as 16 commercial tenants.

The planned office building would stand 105 feet high, with 114,000 square feet of office space. The residential building is designed to be 99-feet high, with about 142,000 square feet of living space spread over 57 units.

Plans show landscaping, public gathering spaces, outdoor seating and dining areas surrounding and separating the two brick buildings.

Mecham also has committed to at least a "silver" certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green-building rating system.

"Sugar House will benefit greatly from this," Mecham told the Planning Commission on Wednesday. "It will bring people in. I think it will really strengthen the business community."

Most of those who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday night did so in favor of the project moving forward — some calling the new buildings an immense improvement over the previous structures at the site, and others saying they are simply sick of looking at a vacant lot.

Several people raised concerns about the increased traffic the project likely will bring to the already congested streets in the Sugar House business district.

"Traffic in this area is now and is going to be a challenge," said Kevin Young, transportation planning engineer for Salt Lake City.

The Mecham Management project is one of two in the works for the former Granite Furniture block. Red Mountain Retail Group is proposing a mixed-use development that would reuse the buildings along McClelland Street, including the old Granite Furniture store.

The two projects had been moving through the public-hearing and approval process at city planning officials' request to create a coordinated and cohesive development of the Granite block.

Planning officials said that recently changed because Mecham's timeline for construction is progressing faster than that of the neighboring developer.

Two Red Mountain representatives spoke at the public hearing, requesting that the Planning Commission delay approval of Mecham's project until the two developers could come to an agreement that would allow both projects to proceed.

Mecham discouraged that action, saying he doesn't want to be "held hostage" by Red Mountain.

Ten months have passed since Mecham first pitched the project to the Planning Commission. Since that Sept. 26 meeting, demolition work at the site started, stopped and started again, and Mecham and his attorneys haggled with Salt Lake City planning officials every step of the way.

Mecham obtained a demolition permit late last year on the condition that landscaping work begin on April 30 if construction of the new project had not commenced.

Construction crews began knocking down buildings at the site in January — demolition work that was expected to take about a month to complete.

The work stalled when it was discovered that the then-partially demolished Blue Boutique building shared a wall with its neighbor to the west, a building owned by Rockwood Investment Associates. It took more than two months for the property owners to work out an agreement that allowed the building to come down.

City building officials met and exchanged letters with Mecham and his attorney in May and June over community concerns about the state of the then-stalled project and the developer's failure to live up to his commitment to landscape the site.

Mecham twice requested extensions on the start and completion of landscaping, arguing that the work would have to be removed when construction resumed. The city stayed firm on both occasions, holding the developer to conditions outlined in his demolition permit.

Ultimately, Mecham met the city-imposed July 3 deadline to landscape the site. The developer is still facing a late-September deadline to fill in the hole at the construction site. Mecham is hoping to get an extension on that city mandate, particularly since the Planning Commission has delayed the project's progress.

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