Plentiful planning required for Point of the Mountain project
Nov 18, 2019 01:59PM
By Mimi Darley Dutton
Envision Utah has come up with some concepts and graphics of what might happen at the prison site, but these are just concepts. The actual plan is still in the early stages of development. (Courtesy Envision Utah)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Though the move of the Utah State Prison and the development of the Point of the Mountain are still several years out, important planning is happening now to ensure the area’s potential is maximized while considering the opinions of stakeholders, including the residents of Draper.
“The thing that makes it unique for us is the prison. It sits inside our city limits. It could potentially have a very big economic impact,” Draper Mayor Troy Walker said.
Draper has a vested interest in that planning given that the mix of state and privately owned land sits largely within the city limits. The current prison site is about 680 acres of state-owned land and it is surrounded by what is projected to be about 20,000 acres of prime developable land in surrounding communities. As a result, Walker is a member of two groups who are instrumental in that planning to represent the best interests of the city.
One group Walker participates in is the Point of the Mountain Commission, established in 2016. The commission meets about once per quarter and recently met in late October. Their members were appointed by the legislature “to study the issues regarding the prison site and the greater Point of the Mountain area,” Walker said. Their work is funded by the legislature ($700,000–$800,000 cumulatively to date, per Walker), but it’s a volunteer board with no stipends for its members. The funds in their budget have gone toward hiring a consultant, Envision Utah. Walker said Envision Utah did a scenario-based project where they got public input by putting on 50 workshops with affected cities. “They really reached out a lot,” Walker said. They came up with four scenarios of how it should develop, less dense through most dense, and one scenario was chosen roughly two years ago.
“Keep in mind the Point of the Mountain Commission doesn’t develop anything, they’re just a body that’s hired people to do high-level studies on how it should go. The transportation problem and all the growth it is going to create are what need to be solved. The commission’s job is to wrangle the studies and get the best recommendation on how to proceed, how to fund it, including transportation…making it work for the whole area,” Walker said. In other words, they’re a study group that doesn’t have any executive authority, according to the mayor.
The second group Walker participates in is the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, established in 2018. “They will decide what goes there, what companies, how big it is, everything. The job of that agency is to actually do the work. It has all authority…and is tasked 100% with development of the prison site,” Walker said.
Walker feels strongly that the current prison site will likely be the catalyst for the surrounding area. “It’s going to kick off and lead the future of the area. The way it’s developed will have a significant influence on the development of the rest of the area around it,” he said.
Walker envisions “the most unique development in the state with respect to transportation. I’d like to see it be a development where the car is not the king. I think it’s got to have excellent mass transit opportunities. We need to develop this project with an eye to clean air. The car is the biggest polluter so we’ve got to do a clean development. It needs to be a walkable, liveable community where you can work, live and play all there.” He imagines tall buildings to consolidate high-density housing but said the geology of the site will drive the results.
Muriel Xochimitl, owner of the PR firm X-Factor, has been hired by the city as a consultant. She’s helped with the city’s recent work and outreach on the general plan and also Draper’s interest in development of the Point of the Mountain area. She attends both the land use and commission meetings. “The risk is that they don’t think big enough. This is a generational opportunity and they want to do it right,” she said, adding that a key takeaway from the city’s recent general plan survey was that Draper residents want to see much of the city’s growth on that prison site.
Alan Matheson was hired in July as executive director of the Point of the Mountain State Land Use Authority. He was previously executive director of the department of environmental quality and he started Envision Utah more than two decades ago.
“It has two different counties meeting, metropolitan planning organizations, a number of municipalities. It’s important that we all communicate and work together to achieve the benefits for the region. Our organization has responsibility for that prison site, but if we focus on that site to the exclusion of everything else, we’ll miss some real opportunities,” Matheson said.
Matheson agrees with Walker that the prison site will set the tone of quality and a focus for the area, “not just on development, but on helping to address some of our social challenges with transportation, housing, resource use, those kinds of things. We’re trying to get a good return for the people of the state, both economic and social return.”
Matheson said the next step after public outreach will be funding to do site work to identify environmental and geotechnical issues, and transportation, which he described as the skeleton around which the site will develop. That will be followed by a national or international competition for a master developer. “We need to make sure we’re on solid footing, get the funding that’s needed and get the best partners in place to get a great result,” he said.
According to Matheson, the department of corrections is targeting mid-2022 to move prisoners to the new prison being built three miles west of the Salt Lake City International Airport. That will be followed by a period of time to do demolition and site work, with a hope to begin building on the site a year or so after that.
One idea is to bring a nationally recognized research presence to make the area an innovation hub, according to Matheson, for research that would develop skills for the work force, create technologies and spur the economy. “We’re looking at what others are doing around the world in innovation hubs where divergent disciplines come together and interact, share ideas, spur creativity and solve the world’s problems,” he said.
“My hope is still that it will be the finest, most economically viable development in Utah when we’re done,” Walker said.