Do we need a City Center?

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I’ve had a few people ask me why Millcreek is planning a City Center. Some have even questioned whether the City Council or City employees are receiving kickbacks or other incentives for pushing this project — I assure you, we are not. I wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully you will give me your feedback as we work together on this project.

While writing this, I realized it would be long and there are several different aspects of the City Center, so I decided to break it down into a couple of posts. I am hoping to address all the concerns that I have heard. If not—send me an email and I’ll add to this.

The City Center came about because Salt Lake County approved a couple of big projects in the area by the old Villa Theater prior to Millcreek incorporating, and this is the best way we have to help direct those projects. Developers are scouring the Salt Lake valley looking for areas to build. Our economy is hot and there is a housing shortage. Developers are looking to capitalize on this and build in areas of the valley that have good access and are in locations desirable to live in. This area of Millcreek certainly meets that criteria.

The above mentioned projects were on parcels of land zoned C-3 that allowed multi-family housing as a conditional use. This zoning was inherited from Salt Lake County and there was nothing that Millcreek could do to change that without violating property rights and risking a lawsuit. So we were faced with a decision, do nothing and let developers build what they wanted based on the zoning allowances of that area, or try and work with the developers to create something that benefited Millcreek residents and turned the potential hodge-podge development into a cohesive, attractive location. We chose the latter.

The result is that we were able to negotiate with the developers to buy and dedicate open space for a linear park along with a small pocket park in this area. The over-grown, neglected strip of lilac bushes east of Adib’s Rug Gallery (the former Villa Theater) will now become an attractive linear park. This was private property—not public open space—and it will now be City owned and be protected as green space. The developers are paying to landscape this and help maintain it for the first few years; impact fees from new development will help with future costs.

The developers are also putting in angled parking along Gunn Avenue allowing for more parking spaces than they are required to provide by code. There will also be retail space on the ground floor of the housing which is important for maintaining our City tax base. None of these were required when the projects were approved by Salt Lake County, but they will help to make the area more attractive, to keep parking out of the nearby neighborhood, and to give a little economic lift to this block; this will, in turn, help to fund improvements to Highland Dr. and the surrounding infrastructure.

Believe me, this is not something we went looking for. But given the opportunity to shape and mold the development rather than be at the whim of random developers seemed the prudent thing to do.

Additionally, we received a lot of feedback from Millcreek residents during our General Plan process that they would like a City Center. A place that says “You are in Millcreek”. Where residents can gather, have community events like farmers or holiday markets, and a variety of day and night activities to benefit Millcreek residents and attract visitors from the region.

We have been soliciting public feedback throughout the past year. We have held public open houses, went on walking tours, published notices in our weekly email and city-wide mailed newsletter, and asked for your thoughts through every social media venue that we could. We gathered comments and suggestions, and even criticism, and tried to come up with a solution that would be good for as many people as possible. It isn’t perfect, and there are trade-offs, but we are trying and we are listening.

Please email me with questions or comments cjackson@millcreek.us


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