Salt Lake City was once accurately described as a “commuter city”, to a degree it still is. Every day thousands of people commute in and thousands return back to their suburban cul-de-sacs. But as more out-of-state urban residents move into Salt Lake City the demographics are quickly changing.
As the saying goes “demographics is destiny”, the demographics of Salt Lake City have undergone a radical tipping point: there are now more non-Mormon singles living in Salt Lake City than there are LDS Members and families. We recently learned that the fastest-growing demographic of the new urban core of Salt Lake City are singles. And according to national statistics singles in their late twenties and early thirties are in far less of a hurry to get married.
Is Salt Lake City’s destiny to become a city for single partiers rather than married-with-children responsible, industrious LDS members? It appears so. And with Salt Lake City now gaining recognition as one of the most “LGBTQ+ friendly” cities in the United States, clearly the demographic change could be considered a 180-shift from how the LDS Church envisioned its headquarters city to be. Should we embrace our new demographics and destiny?
We attended the ceremony for the raising of the final beam for what is now Utah’s tallest building: The Astra Tower. “Astra” is latin for stars. And it’s quite a sight to see such a massive tower in the spot that I once frequented for Carl’s Jr. burgers. I spoke with one of the chief Ed Louis CEO of KIC (Kensington Investment Company). KIC is based in Park City, Utah. Ed moved from Boston to “ski my brains out.” as he puts it. And never wanted to move back. Louis convinced his father and partners to invest $176.2 million to build the 40-story 377-unit residential project. Why did Louis believe this would be a viable investment for a corner known for burgers from Carl’s and smokes from Jeanies? He put it this way:
After purchasing the parcel in 2018 he says, “The dream at that time was to take a tower that is in downtown Boston and put it up here.” But to make a decision like that you need data to back it up. That is where Joe specializes. They hired a market research firm to determine if indeed Salt Lake City had the data to back up what he believed would happen.
Louis adds, “I’ve been living here full-time since 2010, and it’s been hard not to see that the trajectory that Utah was going in, and the in-flux of out-of-towners because of the quality of life, and the tax incentives, and pro business and the government has incentivized people to come in; I think the airport and what the LDS Church has done is a real testament and key indicator to good things are coming. And so we just started plugging away.” But most Utahns don’t want to play and enjoy nightlife and walking around. How did he think that SLC would become an urbanite destination?
“[SLC] was always a commuter city and people would come to the city to work, and for the past five years we have been working on this project. It’s very apparent that people want to live here, because there is a lot of investment coming in here.“
“You have the Delta Center and so you have a lot of concerts and shows going on here. And the foodie scene is going bananas, and the food here is awesome. The bar scene and culture is awesome, just the vibe of it. And us building this project, a lot of that out-of-towner demographic expects a little bit higher-end living, so we are delivering.” In addressing whether KIC had any reservations whether or not they would be able to receive the rents they were hoping for he said the following.
“From when we started modeling this, our rent assumptions have grown exponentially, and it’s not because we are messing with the numbers, it’s because the market is indicating it and demands it.”
It appears that from Astra’s perspective indeed shooting for the stars will pay off in Downtown Salt Lake City as they believe strongly that more residents from California will move to Utah to enjoy our quality of life. However, it remains to be seen if California’s free-spirited, party culture might destroy the conservative industrious spirit of Salt Lake City. Let’s hope not.
Considering how the LDS Church has been building their own residential towers all over downtown through their for-profit arm Zion’s Securities, we think that it might all depend on who decides to live in the new residential towers.