Path cleared for vote on major Kimball Junction project at Tech Center site |

Path cleared for vote on major Kimball Junction project at Tech Center site

Tech Center plan seen as catalyst for remake of neighborhood

Dakota Pacific Real Estate is seeking to develop the open fields seen at top left in this view looking westward over Kimball Junction. County officials determined that a complicated land-exchange involving the proposal is no longer necessary for the county to accomplish its goals for the area, clearing the path to a vote on the project in coming months.
Courtesy of Dakota Pacific Real Estate

The proposal to build a massive housing development at Kimball Junction appears to have a path forward after officials addressed some significant unanswered questions last week, though a vote does not appear imminent and the outcome of that vote remains unclear.

Developers are asking the Summit County Council to allow an already-approved office-park project at the southwest corner of Kimball Junction to become a large-scale residential one, which would almost certainly speed the pace of development on the site.

Dakota Pacific Real Estate is seeking to build 1,100 residences, a hotel and some shops covering 1.3 million square feet on land that was approved in 2008 for a project of the same size, but one restricted to mostly office buildings spread among surface-level parking lots.

The development agreement restricts what can be built on the land to tech-related businesses, which has effectively prevented development there except for the SkullCandy headquarters and Visitor’s Center.

Dakota Pacific is seeking to change the restrictions to allow different uses on the land.

The project has been before the county in some form since the summer of 2019, starting with a plan that included amenities that county officials have sought and that the developers called “aspirational.”

The developers did not claim they could build those amenities, but indicated they would act as a partner and play a role in accomplishing them.

County officials have long spoken about their desire to remake the greater Kimball Junction area to create a connected neighborhood and address significant traffic issues. The Dakota Pacific project site is a significant part of the area’s future, and officials have been trying to work out exactly what role it will play.

Revamping Kimball Junction will likely involve multiple state and federal transportation agencies as well as private developers and the county government.

The effort is likely to take a decade or more and, if all aspects of aspirational plans come together, carry a price tag of roughly a quarter-billion dollars, according to Summit County Manager Tom Fisher.

Those plans have included, variously, burying S.R. 224 underground and creating a walkable park that connects the eastern and western parts of Kimball Junction; building a gondola connection to the Utah Olympic Park and beyond, possibly to Park City Mountain Resort; building a bus rapid transit hub with hundreds of underground parking spots; and other ideas.

The projects are in various early stages of planning, though both the S.R. 224 improvements and the bus rapid transit system are in environmental review.

The financing and timing of those projects remain unclear, though the Dakota Pacific project is seen as a potential catalyst. Already, the developers have worked to receive an earmark in a state infrastructure bill to pay for an environmental impact study for Kimball Junction.

But the developers are hoping to get an answer on their project long before this decade ends. After a series of subcommittee meetings between the developers and County Councilors Doug Clyde and Chris Robinson, officials appear to have simplified at least one aspect of the project.

The county owns a parcel of land on the northeast end of the project site where Ute Boulevard intersects with S.R. 224, home to a county library and transit center. County officials had discussed a land trade with the developers, swapping that county-owned land with other holdings within the development site.

That could have enabled the developer to build some of the project’s more aspirational components at the site, like an underground transit hub.

But last week, officials declared that such a land swap wasn’t necessary to accomplish the county’s goals for the area. That appears to clear a path for the council to vote on the merits of the project without negotiating other complicated aspects of it.

Some “aspirational” aspects of the Tech Center application remain possible, officials say, like a gondola and transit center improvements.
Courtesy of Dakota Pacific Real Estate

Notably, according to the developer’s presentation, the proposal could be built without jeopardizing the county plans for that land.

Disentangling the county’s development plans from Dakota Pacific’s may free up the project for a vote later this summer.

The County Council has wide latitude to evaluate the project and is under no obligation to approve it. That has led to the developer trying to incentivize its approval by providing affordable housing and other amenities in the proposal.

Fisher indicated that any new development on the site will likely contribute to financing the county’s goals there. There are a few potential financing benefits the county could see if the development agreement is reworked, he indicated. One is to create a “community redevelopment area” around greater Kimball Junction. That could recapture the increased tax revenue created by new development to be reinvested inside the area, possibly helping to pay for civic improvements.

The developer could also opt to create a voluntary assessment area, in which property inside the area would be subject to a fee similar to a property tax that would be another source of funds. A similar arrangement was pursued in the Canyons Village base area and has helped to finance affordable housing there as well as the Ecker Hill park-and-ride.

Fisher also indicated the impact fees on new construction could provide meaningful financial support.

Clyde indicated he supports the project while Robinson said he would need to see some improvements to affordable housing and other aspects before voting for it.

The proposal was given a negative recommendation by the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission after it was pared down from the original aspirational plan at the commission’s request.

Some have contended that if the council does not approve the change the developers are requesting, it will act as a brake on growth, with the restrictive development agreement creating a high bar for entry. But some county councilors, including Clyde, have said that is mistaken and that any time land is entitled with density, projects will likely be built.

Summit County

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