Guest opinion: Vision for Tech Center has not lived up to its promise
Former Snyderville Basin planning commissioner
Given the hubbub around the revised planning for the Tech Center at Kimball Junction by Dakota Pacific, maybe some background from someone involved back then would be helpful.
It is fair to have misgivings about any proposal that seeks to change a long-standing development plan. At the same time, it should be proper to re-think any plan that seems not to be working, especially when it is not reaching the promised objectives.
I, for one, am proud to have been a part of the process of the original approval. As a six-year veteran of the Planning Commission, I was in the “deep end” of all the considerations of this project. The goals were lofty, the promises well presented, and the community benefit of hundreds of acres of open space in the Basin worthy.
But the existing development plan is not working!
When something is not working, do you stick your head in the sand and say “remember when” or do you seek to make adjustments that will bring about promised goals?
As I remember, the goals were to:
• Provide hundreds of acres of open space to the Basin at a price way below what the market could demand. That legacy is secure, the $25 million was well spent and the land a bargain then and now.
• Bring high-quality employees to the Basin.
• Bring creative companies into the Basin and secure the business-friendly nature of the valley.
• Reduce congestion of automobiles, yet allow the traffic of wallets moving around the community to benefit our local businesses.
• Secure a significant amount of affordable housing to fill the county’s deficit.
• Build an environmental community that is sensitive.
• Get it all built out in 10 to 15 years.
I remember leaving one of the meetings and thinking, “In 10 years will I be proud of this addition to the community?”
Well, now, it is almost 13 years into the future.
I drove through that neighborhood last week and wondered where are the high-quality companies we were promised?
But then, the market rules these decisions, and the market for this type of Tech Center just has not moved up the canyon. (Interesting to note that the University of Utah Research Park has also failed, and it will soon follow other research parks across the country as housing, retail and livable communities intersperse among the office buildings.)
The goals are not being achieved. The property is largely vacant. The promised 15-year build-out is almost past. This development plan is not working! What can we do?
Then I learned of the new proposal.
I was impressed:
• It could all be built at once, avoiding the construction traffic for years into the future.
• It would more than double the affordable housing over the Boyer development. Almost like getting that for free.
• It would bring real, living human beings to the Basin. They would live here, shop here and increase the viability of the existing neighborhood retail.
• The buildings would designed to fit together, not one building after another, one architect after another trying to make a statement.
• It would enhance the Kimball Junction neighborhood. (A neighborhood plan has been developed in which this new project fits.)
I understand that some of you are not wholly in favor of this new development. If the concept needs tweaking, then tweak away. But do not judge this negatively out of hand. It is hard living with your head in the sand.
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“Where will we get the water, sewage treatment, police, fire, city services, broadband capacity and green power? How will we stop the gridlock that will result from all this expansion?” asks Victor Janulaitis.