The Best Real Estate in Silicon Slopes
With the upcoming move to bring the Utah State Prison out of Draper and into Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant, more than 700 acres are going to be up for grabs in the next few years—and city and state officials, along with city’s mayor Troy Walker, are going to make the most of this chance to craft the future of the Point of the Mountain.
“We’re about built out with respect to residential potential,” Mr. Walker says. “Other than the prison site.”
Prison For Sale
The prison has called Draper home since 1951, when the original state prison, in need of costly repairs and sitting on a once-isolated property that had become part of a thriving city center, was moved from Sugar House. At the time, Draper was just a dot of a town between Salt Lake City and Provo. But little over 60 years later, it found itself under similar conditions that prompted the prison’s move from Sugar House.
State leaders started discussing moving the prison in the mid-2000s, but the first serious steps to move the prison didn’t come until the winter of 2012, says Rep. Brad Wilcox, a state legislator who was instrumental in shepherding the move from idea to legislative vote. “We had a prison that needed about $250 million capital investment for maintenance, and we were trying in essence to determine whether or not it was wise to invest that money in Draper or if we should invest it somewhere else,” he recalls. “We made the decision over the course of about 18 months that it made sense to find a new location for it, and then the decision was where we move the prison to.”
That part of the process brought no small amount of controversy as multiple sites across the state were considered. But in August 2015, a special session of the Legislature voted to relocate the prison to a swath of land in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City. The new prison is currently expected to open its doors in 2020.
Who Will Grab It?
When lawmakers decided to move the prison, the Silicon Slopes hadn’t fully blossomed into the booming tech hub that it is today. Seeing how much the region has grown even with the prison still sitting in the middle of it is proof that Mr. Wilcox and others involved made the right decision.
“If we ever had any doubts that there’s a tremendous amount of economic prosperity that we can unleash in the Point of the Mountain area and moving the prison would enhance that, I think the last three years have proven that we made the right choice,” he says.
The site represents a rare opportunity, says Theresa Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “We’re very enthusiastic to see that site as a potential catalytic real estate opportunity for the state. Not just real estate, but employment and opportunities for us to keep up the momentum in the IT sector,” she says.
There are far too many unknown variables at this point to say what the site will look like a decade down the road, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating. As far as speculations go, Mr. Walker has heard it all: a professional sports stadium, a research-oriented university extension, the next corporate headquarters for a mysterious company. Just as there’s too little information to definitively say what will go in, there’s not enough to rule anything out, either. “It’s got the potential for anything,” he says.
The fate of the current site, which belongs to the state, not Draper City, is in the hands of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority. Ms. Foxley says the collaborative approach the authority has taken in getting feedback, not just from Draper City, but all of the communities incorporated in the Point of the Mountain region—commonly regarded as the stretch between Sandy and Lehi—demonstrates the means to unite common goals.
“What they were able to do is say, hey, here’s the listening that we did, here’s all of the feedback that we got, here are the values the community has, and here are some ways you can capture those values through development… the power of the commission is through persuasion,” she says.
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