Salt Lake City to Consider Scrapping Height Limits for Potential Convention Hotel
Two hotel sites are being considered within the existing Salt Palace Convention Center footprint — a possibility that has led to a proposed zoning change on a four-square-block piece of the downtown property.
Salt Lake County seeks a change that would permit a structure "of unlimited height" to be built on Salt Palace property between South Temple and 200 South from West Temple to 200 West. Current zoning caps building heights at 75 feet in this area.
The request will be considered during one of 22 public hearings before the Salt Lake City Council, starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Lisa Adams said Monday she and the council know little about what's behind the county's proposal, which has not been discussed in City Council work sessions.
Adams, chairwoman of the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, also said the council will be briefed Wednesday on the county's intentions.
Some have speculated the proposed hotel could become the capital's tallest building.
The county has tried since 2012 to entice a hotel developer to enter a public/private partnership to build an 800-room hotel that could serve as a headquarters for big conventions that come to town.
After two years of working with the Legislature to develop a $75 million, post-performance tax-incentive package the state, county and city all could accept, the county entered talks with Dallas-based Omni Hotels and Resorts to build the megahotel.
But the negotiations broke down last fall, so the county issued a second request for a proposal. In February, it opted to proceed with more detailed negotiations with DDRM Cos. of Sandy, one of three bidders.
DDRM helped develop the St. Regis Hotel at Deer Valley and the Hilton Anaheim in California.
County Mayor Ben McAdams said Monday that hotel contract negotiations and the zoning-change request are moving ahead on parallel tracks to give the county more flexibility in negotiating terms desirable for taxpayers.
"There's no sequence in which [the deal] has to play out. One of the tracks doesn't have to come before the other," he said.
The mayor contends uncertainty generates risk for developers, so whatever the county does to limit uncertainty also reduces the public's risk and, ultimately, the cost.
"If we can answer questions about what the city and county are willing to do on zoning and [hotel] siting," McAdams said, "then we're in a better position to drive a hard bargain on behalf of the taxpayer."
Two hotel sites are being considered within the existing Salt Palace footprint. The most desirable is on the northeastern side, on land now occupied by the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, which is between Abravanel Hall and the main Salt Palace entrance on West Temple.
A second possibility is south of there, on the northwestern corner of 200 South and West Temple, McAdams said.
"Our estimation shows both sites would work," he said, although the developer could choose to go with another location. One benefit of these Salt Palace sites is they already are publicly owned, negating land-acquisition costs for the project.
The county's approach also is designed to give Salt Lake City "substantial opportunity to inform what the hotel looks like" through its zoning and conditional use processes, McAdams added.
Because of the number of rooms contemplated in the convention hotel project, the proposed zoning change to unlimited height has fueled speculation that it could be the tallest building in Salt Lake City, according to Isaac Riddle, an urban-development writer who publishes BuildingSaltLake.com. His article was reprinted by DowntownRising, a project of the Downtown Alliance.