U seeks input on Universe Project

By Jed Layton, Asst. News Editor

In an age when ideas are rarely free, the U is hoping to get some new suggestions from the neighboring community about the design and construction of the Universe Project.

The U will hold three community workshops with Inland American Communities to discuss how to develop the mixed-use development project, which will be built adjacent to Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the parking lot is located.

Coralie Alder, a U spokeswoman, said the U sought involvement from the university community from the beginning of the development process and hopes the workshops will continue to provide a platform for the public to give advice and suggestions.

“Now that we have a developer we want to create specific plans with the community in mind,” she said. “We will be discussing plans, getting comments, inputs and recommendations.”

Mike Perez, associate vice president for facilities management, said in a statement that one of the reasons the U decided to select developer Inland American Communities as a partner is because of its history in creating projects that satisfied both the university and neighboring communities.

Ross Robb, project manager for Inland American Communities, said the community workshops are an opportunity for the community to give input on anything they would like, from design to type of retail stores.

“The workshops are advertised to the community to come listen, speak, learn whatever anybody wants to do,” he said. “Everyone and anyone is welcome to come. We want to know what the whole community thinks.”

Robb said the workshops would give project planners new ideas and also give attention to potential problems in the plans from an outsider’s point of view.

“I am hoping that as we proceed through the 90-day period, that we can periodically report the progress we are making,” he said. “We are trying not to structure these meetings too much. We want the discussion to be free flowing.”

Tentative plans call for the structure to include university offices, housing, retail shops, restaurants and additional parking. Planners also hope a grocery store will be included in the project.

However, Robb warned that the design and construction process is complicated, involving multiple technical issues, including utilities, TRAX, parking and traffic that might keep community suggestions from being acted upon.

The community workshops will be held Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 26. The first two meetings will be held in the Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower and the third meeting will be held in the Commander’s House at Fort Douglas. All meetings will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To provide additional feedback and suggestions, Mayor Ralph Becker has formed an advisory task force made up of community representatives, local business owners and members of the planning commission.

They will also meet three times in the coming month. The public is welcome to listen to the discussion. Advisory task force meetings will also be held at the Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower on Feb. 12, March 12 and April 2 at 6 p.m.

Andrew Jones, a sophomore in psychology, said he did not think he would go to either the workshops or the task force meetings because of a busy evening schedule.

“But it would be good if more students attended and gave an input,” he said. “I personally want better restaurants than the Union Building, and more parking.”

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