In the past eight months, Sugar House has lost some buildings and businesses that were gems, including the former Sugar House Furniture, Square Nest, and Fats Bar buildings, which were demolished, producing a reincarnated form of the “Sugar Hole.” When this void will be filled is anyone’s guess, because developer Craig Mecham will not answer our repeated phone calls.
Soon, the Subway sandwich shop on 974 E 2100 S will be demolished for more apartments. Its flagstone facade isn’t spectacular, but it’s still an unusual structure that has added to the eclectic mix that makes the area charming.
Utah Stories is invested in the neighborhoods of Sugar House. We’ve seen buildings torn down and new ones go up. We talked with Judi Short of the Sugar House Community Council about growth and preservation in Sugar House.
Utah Stories: Among all the demolition and construction in Sugar House, another classic building is slated to be razed. What are your thoughts on this latest destruction?
Judi Short: If by a classic building, you are talking about the Subway sandwich shop, I don’t think we are worried about that. And I didn’t hear anything about the Utah-Idaho Supply building. It was built in 1985 and is just a strip mall we have never liked. But, it is a longstanding business that we stand to lose.
U.S.: In your position on the Council, do you hear from people about their dismay over the losses, or are most people okay with all the new growth?
J.S.: I think most people are upset about the new growth. The character of Sugar House is gone. However, many of us participated in the revision of the master plan in 2005 that allowed for all this height. We didn’t think it would ever happen to this extent. And, if you go to Sugar House in the evening, there are lots of people on the streets, shopping and eating at the restaurants, utilizing the outdoor dining that many of the restaurants have. It is vibrant, so something must be right about what is happening.
U.S.: Is their any kind of organized effort to halt the demolition?
J.S.: Not that I am aware of. I think all of us are upset that the goals of the master plan are not being followed, and Planning is not supporting us on this. For example, the Business District Design Guidelines call for orienting public entrances to the street—functional entrances every 30 linear feet. However, even though we pushed this with the planner and our letter to the Planning Commission and public testimony, the Conditional Building and Site Design Review process (which was the standard of review for this project since it is an approved use in this zone) didn’t look at that. So, we are finding that even though something is in the Sugar House Master Plan, the city ordinances don’t reflect those details. It is very frustrating, and we don’t feel that the city is on our side.
To achieve a walkable neighborhood takes more than sidewalks. There has to be something interesting to see and do along the way, otherwise people will take other streets to get where they are going. We were pushing hard to get small retail businesses along the main floor of this building, but the developer had absolutely no interest in doing this. On the ground floor, he has townhome style (two-story) apartments with a very small patio on the street and a private entrance to that patio. The second floor of those units is down one level. We don’t think that these will have a very active use, because there isn’t any sort of barrier to keep people from stealing barbecues or chairs from these patios. There is no fence. So, in essence,this is a blank space to hurry by.
U.S.: Do you feel that Sugar House is losing its character and identity?
J.S.: Yes, Sugar House is losing its character and identity. We are trying very hard to keep the small businesses here, and the developers all say they are most welcome. However, once the developer has spent lots of money to build a building, they have to recoup that cost by asking higher rents, and many/most small retailers cannot afford those prices.
U.S.: What would you like to see happen as far as preservation? Is there any area that is still untouched that you would fight to preserve?
J.S.: Preservation. We’d like to see 1100 East from 2100 South northward preserved with the small buildings and shops that now exist. We hope that will continue. The Mayor lives in Sugar House, and she is disappointed in what she sees happening. At the same time, she says that a property owner has a right to develop their property as long as it fits within the zoning requirements. We are pleased that the beautiful Sugar House Post Office has remained in its original state—it is a wonderful building—and we know the library will remain as well. It is starting to feel like everything looks the same in Sugar House.
U.S.: What can people do to let their opinions be heard?
J.S.: Every time the Sugar House Community Council gets a petition from SLC Planning for a new project, we put all the plans up on our website, and there is a link where they can provide comments about the project. Those come to my mailbox, and I include them when I write a letter to the Planning Commission about the project. For many projects, we put flyers on the doorsteps of each property around the project so that the adjacent neighbors will learn about the project. We tell them when our meetings are that discuss the projects and where they can provide input. We present everything to our Land Use and Zoning Committee on the third Monday of the month at 6 pm at Sprague Library. This is a more in-depth review. We also have the project presented at the Sugar House Community Council meeting the first Wednesday of the month at 7 pm at Sprague Library. We gather comments via comment cards from attendees at these meetings, which also go to the Planning Commission. We have collected about 1500 email addresses from folks who live in Sugar House, and once a month we send a newsletter which highlights what is happening and talks about any new development we know about. The upcoming meetings are also in the newsletter. We don’t put flyers out for the new apartment buildings because we don’t have access to those buildings. Tenants are given a welcome packet when they move in, which tells them how to go on our website (www.sugarhousecouncil.org) and sign up to get the newsletters. We hope they have all done that. We are out and about at community events such as the Farmers Market and the July 4th festival, gathering email addresses and answering questions about what is going on.
U.S.: Do you have the name of the company that is tearing down the building and what they plan to put there?
J.S.: John Gardener Properties is doing this project. They are the ones that built Urbana on 1100 East right next to the gas station, and the 12th East Apartments. They have an office in the Wells Fargo Building. They are putting in a big 5-story apartment building. The building will take up nearly the entire footprint of the parcel, with entrances to the garage on 2100 South and 10th East. There will be 126 apartments and 135 parking stalls. The design is very ordinary. There are nice amenities for the tenants, such as a spa, TV room and a game room. Most of the comments we got about this building had to do with the lack of retail on the first floor. There is no affordable housing component in this building. The building is right on the street with no setback. The sidewalk is being widened to 8 feet. We are concerned that the extra traffic this will generate will be through the neighborhood to the south, which has narrow streets and won’t be able to take a lot more traffic.