Universe Project concerns still present

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Universe Project architects are facing the brunt of community discontent with the planned development.

Inland American Communities, the developer selected for the proposed project, and GSBS architects are planning to transform the west parking lot of Rice-Eccles Stadium into a retail, housing and office space development, complete with a grocery store, six-level parking structure and a roundabout.

David Pierce from Inland American Communities described the future development as a “mini-Gateway,” though Stephen Smith, an architect from GSBS, said the project is dramatically smaller in building density and size than the Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City.

The developer and architect presented potential layouts for the mixed-used development at last week’s Mayoral Advisory Task Force meeting, during which U neighbors and task force members voiced opinions about the project.

J.T. Martin, a task force member and city council representative for the U and surrounding neighborhoods, expressed concern about the viability of the scale of the project.

Community members discussed their grievances with the size and economic feasibility of a proposed grocery store within the development. Martin, who owns Emigration Market, said that the grocery store complicates existing problems with parking and traffic.

“This project is on the wrong side of the street,” Martin said. “If you’re going to have a grocery, then you are going to (see) at least one semi a day, three beer trucks if you include your Coke truck and at least 20 other vendors.”

GSBS and its partner company JPH Architects thus far have designed one entrance and exit point designated for delivery and one entrance and one exit for residential and visiting traffic.

J.R. Moore, vice president for retail services at CB Richard Ellis, the commercial real estate manager selected for the project, said he understands that U neighbors prefer to have local businesses in the development. Moore said that 90 percent of the interest for the project has been from local retailers. He said that CBRE plans to regulate the kinds of businesses that lease space in the development.

Joe Nahvi, general manager of B & D Burgers located at 222 S. 1300 E., said as a local business, B&D’s profit margin is small. Nahvi said his business receives community support, but he still fears that the Universe Project will close down the burger shop because corporate retailers have more financial leeway.

“Corporations come and if they don’t do so well, then they close and go somewhere else,” he said. “But they kill us before they leave.”

Nahvi said he already experiences problems with parking and congested traffic during football games and worries that any reduction in parking will create further problems.

Pierce said the U, Inland American Communities and GSBS kicked off the traffic study this week and will present the results of that study at the next task force meeting March 12. Based on the results of the study, GSBS and Inland American Communities will re-evaluate the project layouts that have been presented.

Ray Kingston, an architect and U neighbor, expressed concern about the lack of open space and cheap-looking materials like stucco used in the previous visual depictions for the project.

“We don’t know on the materials yet,” Smith said, but he said there will be brick, stucco, metal siding and stone.

Clegg Mabey from Sahara Construction, which GSBS has contracted for the building process, said that Inland American Communities is known for completing very plastic jobs.

“But we’ve been told by the architects, no stucco,” Mabey said.

The developers and architects are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified and hope that the Universe Project will be one of the first neighborhood developments that meets the LEED requirements. Kenneth Adlam from GSBS said that the U.S. Green Building Council will release the LEED rubric for the neighborhood developments in time for the architects to use the rubric during the design and construction process.

Smith said that in an effort to improve the visual character of the development, the buildings will be set as far back from the street as the existing Carlson Hall. Pierce said he will bring pictures of completed projects of similar size and scale to the meeting on March 12 to help community members better understand how the project will look from the inside and outside when complete.

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