SALT LAKE CITY — A plan is in place to transform the city's former public safety headquarters into a mixed-income housing structure within three years.
The nearly 60-year-old structure at 315 E. 200 South, known as the Northwest Pipeline Building, is the first of three properties Salt Lake City officials are marketing for development over the next year as part of the 5,000 Doors initiative — a goal to add 5,000 units of affordable housing in the city over the next five years.
As part of the initiative, the city is requiring developers to reserve at least 25 percent of the units for affordable housing and a minimum of 50 units as permanent supportive housing for people who struggle with chronic homelessness.
Developers can now submit proposals and bids for the project, which also will require space for local businesses and public open space on the 2 ½-acre property. The land was recently appraised for $10 million, said Michael Akerlow, the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development director.
"This is a great opportunity to deliver a transformative project for this area through the development of further affordable housing units and exciting new neighborhood retail,” Mayor Ralph Becker said. “We are also laying the groundwork for a renovation of this historic and iconic building — an effort that brings new vibrancy to the neighborhood while also serving to preserve and protect the character of our community.”
Michael Iverson, Central City Neighborhood Council chairman, said he was "downright excited" when city officials announced plans to bring affordable and permanent supportive housing to his community.
"This is just the sort of project Central City needs," Iverson said. "Although I love my community, people approach me who want to move into the area and I may be at a loss for words because I know there is a lack of affordable housing, particularly for students, members of marginalized communities, young families and the elderly and disabled. These folks are being priced out of our urban neighborhoods, and I know the building I live in has a waiting list of over 700 people."
Salt Lake City has an 8,200-unit gap between needed and available units, according to a 2013 housing study. Statewide, there is need for 44,000 affordable housing units, state officials reported to Utah lawmakers in 2014.
Becker said he expects the 50 supportive housing units for chronically homeless individuals will be built in a separate structure, which will be required to match the building's historical character.
"A lot of our chronically homeless need a lot of service support to be successful, and so while they’ll be part of this neighborhood and development, we felt that providing them with their own space is going to be both more succesful for them and the project," the mayor said.
Since the 5,000 Doors initiative launched in January, Becker said 16 percent of the city's five-year goal has been met, with nearly 800 affordable units having been built and preserved. Additionally, the mayor said there are more than 2,000 units in development and construction phases.
City officials have called the old public safety building "dilapidated" and even "unsafe" since Salt Lake police and fire personnel moved into the new public safety building in 2013.
Akerlow acknowledged the developers eventually chosen for the project will take on quite a task because they'll be required to preserve the historic nature of the building. Renovations of the run-down building could cost millions, he said.
The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the few remaining structures in Salt Lake City designed in the International architectural style, making developers eligible for tax credits to be used toward its rehabilitation.