Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This is especially true in Sugar House as more old buildings are demolished to make way for high-density development.
In 1956, George Dixon built the Dixon Building. Last October, tenants of the Dixon Building were given notice by property owner Craig Mecham to vacate the premises. The structure is coming down to make way for the U of U’s new Sugar House Health Center. Two retail tenants, the Square Nest and Standard Optical Co. moved a half block north to Mecham’s Vue at Sugar House Crossing, but after 17 years at that location, owner Mishell Caligiuri said she currently has no plans to re-open Fats Grill.
In 2006, office and retail tenants on Highland Drive’s west side learned that Mecham Management wanted to redevelop, and they were forced to pack up and move out. Some businesses relocated within Sugar House, but most left the area, fled to the Internet or permanently closed. Vue at Sugar House Crossing construction didn’t begin until 2012. When it was finished, the remaining merchants on the block had survived six years of uncertainty, conflict, and traffic congestion.
Both Phase 2 of Mecham’s Sugar House Crossing project and the next phase of the Granite redevelopment by Boulder Ventures Development Inc. will proceed this year, and the developers appear to be collaborating. Progress on both projects is contingent on moving segments of the Jordan and Salt Lake Canal out from under the sites of proposed new buildings, and this must be done before the irrigation season begins in March.
Sugarhouse Development LLC recently acquired the Leisure Living building from Boulder Ventures, and Salt Lake City approved applications for demolition permits for both the Leisure Living and Dixon Buildings, with an option that exempts the developer from having an approved re-use plan in place. It allows him to demolish both buildings if he posts a bond that will be forfeited if he doesn’t begin construction within 18 months. He will also be required to landscape the properties if a building permit for new construction has not been issued by then. Once the land is cleared, the canal will be rebuilt at the developer’s expense, and must be finished by March 1st. At this writing, Leisure Living has already come down.
The next building to fall will be the Hyland Plaza, one of the area’s first outdoor retail malls. Bekke Robb at 1 World Gifts wants to stay in business, but doesn’t know where or how much time she will have to move. Peter Makowski, manager of the City’s Economic Development Division, said merchants who are seeking new locations should contact his office. The Economic Development Loan Fund can help with moving expenses and capital for hiring new employees.
Sugar House has weathered major changes before, but this time is noticeably different. Ten-story buildings, thousands of new residents, and local businesses replaced by chain stores will impact the community in an irreversible way. For Sugar House to endure as a community gathering place with a unique and identifiable character, it must learn from its past experiences.