Sugar House

Sugar House Anticipates Another Three to Four Years of Construction Mayhem

Business tenants and residents of the Vue and the Sugarmont Apartments, as well as occupants of the Rockwood Studios and 2100 Sugar House, can anticipate another three or four years of construction mayhem.


Photos by Richard Markosian.

Sugar House passed the 169th anniversary of its founding. There wasn’t a lot to celebrate in the SH town center. Many of the historic sites and cultural traditions that previous residents cherished have been forgotten or were never passed on to the hundreds of newcomers in the district.

Covid-19 put a stop to “Sugar Days” celebrations. Retail businesses and service providers had to limit interactions with the public, and some changed their business models to comply with public health directives. Offices with clients that arrived by appointment adjusted their schedules to avoid exposing employees and patrons to infection, but the shops that depended on walk-in customers were especially hard hit. Restaurants began offering take-out services and home delivery to stay in business. 

The relentless tumult of demolition and new building in the Business District caused more difficulties by blocking streets and sidewalks and using surface parking lots to stage construction work. Even the most loyal customers complained about traffic and the shortage of parking places and began taking their business elsewhere. 

Another blow fell last October when a massive fire ignited the center of the Monument block and destroyed a partially built 8-story apartment building called Sugar Alley. Occupants of two neighboring buildings were promptly evacuated. Most residents were allowed to return to their units within a few days. 

Businesses on the block had a different experience. Whitney Murdock of SLC Med Spa said she was notified the next morning that her office was in a “red-zone” and she wouldn’t be able to get in to access their appointment files or to notify their clients that they were shut down. Their doors were closed for two weeks. 

Firefighters climbed to the top of the Vue apartment building to put water on the fire. Real Advantage Title at the southwest end of the Vue building suffered water damage. Becca Harrison from Mochinut said her shop was closed for a month, so in addition to losing business during that time, they had to throw spoiled food away. 

Shere Brunje, Sugar House Sports Clips, said her store wasn’t damaged, but they were closed for 34 days to protect their clients and employees from smoke and ash, falling debris, and broken glass. When the barricades came down, returning customers didn’t know where to park or how to access the shop. 

As tough as this has been, Brunjes said, there has been a silver lining. “It’s good to see people back in the area. YogaSix is doing yoga on the plaza; people are going to spin classes. This is how we will make it.” 

Other merchants largely agree. While several operators were frustrated by the lack of transparency and cooperation from property owners/managers, everyone agreed that the Fire Department was great at bringing the business tenants together and communicating with them. Previously, Brunjes said, they hardly knew each other; now they are talking and collaborating. The City Mayor’s office, City Councilmember Amy Fowler, the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce and the Community Council were all looking for ways to help. Collectively, they have organized a variety of promotions to bring people back into the Business District and amplify the message that Sugar House is open for business. 

Erika Wiggins is co-chair of the Sugar House Chamber and Community Alliance. For two years, she has produced #SugarHouseStrong, a series of videos that helps Sugar House entrepreneurs to tell their own stories. The Chamber is partnering with the Sugar House Community Council to encourage new residents to come out and meet their neighbors on the Monument Plaza (1100 East/2100 South.) Starting May 19th and continuing on the 3rd Friday of every month, “Sugar House Rocks” will present live music, free entertainment, and a variety of local vendors’ products to Plaza visitors. 

But there are more hard times coming for downtown Sugar House. In 2023, Highland Drive will be reconstructed using money from the Funding Our Future street reconstruction bond to replace and upgrade antiquated sewer, water and storm drains. (Note: The SLC Department of Economic Development has funding for construction mitigation to help those impacted by the Highland Drive project, and will help business owners to complete the application.)  

Also in 2023, City Transportation will begin reconstructing 2100 South from 700 East to 1300 East to replace the aging/failing roadway pavement. Simultaneously, they will consider possible improvements for transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities. And work will soon begin on the McClelland Shared Street Plan for traffic-calming features between 2100 South and Fairmont Park. These will include wider spaces for outdoor dining, more landscaping, and treatments to ease conflicts along the McClelland Trail. 

And if that’s not enough — unless on-going legal disputes interfere with their plans, owners of the Sugar Alley property reportedly intend to restart construction on their building this summer. Sugarhouse Dixon still has a vested right to proceed under the laws in effect when the building permit was issued in June 2019. The permit remains open while work to remove and rebuild the fire-damaged structure continues. 

Business tenants and residents of the Vue and the Sugarmont Apartments, as well as occupants of the Rockwood Studios and 2100 Sugar House, can anticipate another three or four years of construction mayhem. But, as Chad Hopkins of Hopkins Brewing Co. said, “The construction will hurt a bit. But we are doing pretty well. We will bounce back.”

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