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People-oriented centers could help manage Utah’s population growth

Aug 28, 2017 11:33AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Eleven critical issues have been pinpointed for needed solutions with the proposed doubled population in Utah by 2050. (Envision Utah)

Gallery: Envision Utah [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Cassie Goff  |  cassie@mycityjournals.com

Envision Utah is a public and private partnership dedicated to a better future for the state. A team from the partnership, including Lead Planners Ryan Beck and Brian Heart, are visiting different city and state organizations to present solutions to the potential problems stemming from the proposed growth in Utah over the next 30 years. On July 18, they spoke to the Cottonwood Heights City Council.

Envision Utah began in January 1997 with the purpose of harnessing growth for the best possible outcomes. Currently, Scott Anderson resides as president with Spencer F. Eccles and Gary R. Herbert sitting as co-chairs. Thousands of Utah residents along with just under 150 members on the board of directors and executive committee have voiced their opinions on the 11 most pressing issues for Utah’s growth: agriculture, air quality, disaster resilience, education, energy, housing and cost of living, jobs and economy, public lands, recreation, transportation and communities, and water. 

“We recently surpassed 3 million people in Utah. By 2050, the population will double,” Heart said. “We are running out of land.” 

In order to keep infrastructure costs low, emergency response times quick, and properly manage other impacts, Envision Utah has suggested a focus on centers.  

Currently, most cities are designed with automobiles in mind with disconnected streets and separate uses. However, centers are designed with people in mind. 

“Centers are promising for the proposed population growth within Salt Lake County instead of intersections or other sorts of developments,” Beck said. “They are based on the ideas of recreating an urban environment with large population centers.” 

Centers work on a grid network with connecting streets, instead of one main arterial road. They are zoned for mixed uses including commercial, office and housing. They also make walking to destinations more accessible because, “you don’t have a parking lot between you and where you are going,” Heart said. 

Historic examples of centers include Bingham, Park City, City Creek, Sugar House and the Ninth and Ninth neighborhood in Salt Lake City. Some more recent examples of centers include Daybreak and Riverwoods in Provo. 

“The great thing about centers is that they can occur on lots of different scales,” Heart said. “They can also have different types of housing, to match the character of the area. “ 

As the population grows in Utah, apartment rent prices increase as well. The average rent price currently in the Salt Lake area is $1,700 per month. The supply for housing is pretty low, “some houses sell within two hours of being on the market,” Heart said. “Developers can build good apartments and see them rented before the building is even finished.”

In a survey done by Envision Utah, 80 percent of people support different types of housing that aren’t just large lots. They are supportive, in general, of a new trend. Multi-family units are more popular. 

“Centers give people more options so it’s less congested overall,” Beck said. Centers provide public spaces and walkable areas, with community services. Automobile parking becomes more concentrated, instead of being spread out, with the use of underground parking and parking structures. 

They also attempt to facilitate different modes of transportation, brick and mortar stores instead of online shopping, and grid patterns for accessible streets. 

“You can control traffic speeds and behavior by the way you design the street,” Heart said. 

Cottonwood Heights is built out, for the most part. However, “Fort Union has the right character for centers and higher density housing,” Heart said.

“The Wasatch Front should be an area of centers,” Beck recommended. “City Hall could even be a center, just on a different level.” 

To learn more about Envision Utah, visit http://envisionutah.net/ or their Facebook page at EnvisionUtah. 

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