Universe Project postponed

By By , Staff Writer

By Rita Totten, Staff Writer

A controversial U construction project will not be eliminating parking spaces in the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot8212;for now.

Facilities Management announced that the Inland American Communities Group notified the U that the group that planned to realize it will not be moving forward with the Universe Project.

The Universe Project was a proposed mixed-use development, which would have been built in the west end of Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot. A 40,000 square foot combination of retail space, office buildings, 150 residential units and a parking structure was initially proposed in March as a way to create a vibrant campus center.

The IACG decision not only pleases surrounding homeowners and businesses, who have been vocal in their displeasure with the project, but it also matches up with the U’s intent to discontinue the project for now.

“The primary reason we have decided not to pursue the Universe Project is because of the current status of the economy,” said Mike Perez, associate vice president of Facilities Management. “It’s still trying to come out of recession.”

The retail and housing markets are still soft and slow in developing, he said. It is hard to make those projects move forward when the economy is the way it is, Perez said.
Lending is another factor.

Money is harder to get because lenders are more concerned about the risks involved, Perez said.

Although the project has been scrapped for now, Perez said he hopes there will be a project in the future in this location.

“It might be different than what we had initially thought,” he said. “But we will take all we have learned and apply it as we go along.”

If his department decides to move forward with a project at a later date, Perez said it will open the process of proposals again, which will allow for other contracting groups, as well as IACG, to be considered.

The project was meant to make more use of the TRAX station by the stadium.
“We want to develop a project that fits the U,” Perez said.

Perez declined to say how much the project might cost. Since it is an ongoing real-estate transaction that the U wants to pursue in the future, he said he doesn’t want to divulge any cost or general value because it could put the U at a disadvantage in its negotiation possibilities.

Ross Robb, managing director of special projects for IACG, could not be reached for comment.

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