Wednesday, July 11, 2007

And when Draper DOES get it right...

...people just complain. TRAX is coming to Draper, and the city government amazingly has decided to actually plan for it, as opposed to simply paving a quarter-section for parking the way Sandy did across from Jordan High School. TRAX will run on the old, Union Pacific granger line that used to serve the egg farms in Draper, and the city wants to plan mixed use development to encourage and take advantage of pedestrian traffic around the new station. And people are screaming bloody murder because the city is encouraging trains in their back yards.

In my not so humble opinion, the NIMBYs can pound sand. First, I grew up on a Union Pacific main line, and I sincerely doubt the experience scarred me too severely. Second, when you build your McMansion next to existing railroad tracks, you'd better not whine when the owner decides to run a train down those tracks. Finally, TRAX is coming, and it has to go somewhere. The proposal to run it down State Street is laughable. There's no room, and the 12300 South intersection is enough of a mess without adding trains.

Get used to the trains, people. The folks who lived on the egg farms your pseudo-stucco structures replaced did.

Draper Pays the Price

As anyone who visits can tell, Draper has been practicing redneck land use planning for about 20 years. Billy Bob wants to turn his farm into 100 houses, a truck stop, a strip mall, and a church? No problem. We'll worry about infrastructure (other than the church) some other time.

Up on the wind tunnel that is SunCrest, that "later, dude" attitude toward infrastructure is coming home with a vengeance. It seems nobody bothered to check the soils up there, and now the roads are falling apart. The current estimated price tag is $10 million, but expect that to be revised upward. The finger-pointing is starting in earnest, but there will be plenty of blame to go around. Expect this to be a drain in the Draper budget for awhile.

In the mean time, the residents up there need to start preparing. If no one checked the soils under the roads, did anyone check under the houses? That ridge is basically just a big sand and gravel pile. At the least, they'd better get some serious 4-wheel-drive vehicles to negotiate those roads. I'm not talking about the weinie Hummers those folks normally drive. I'm talking about something real. Like my old Subaru Loyale.

A Tale of Two Malls

Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City scales back. Cottonwood Mall in Holladay goes for the big plan. Why are these projects apparently moving in opposite directions?

Of course there's a difference in location. Satterfield Helm Management, the Valley Fair developer, has cut out the residential element (a series of condo mid-rises) ostensible because it would set the project back two years, but let's face it, there's more demand for condos in Holladay than in West Valley City. Unspoken but bubbling under the "demand" issue is the fear that speculators would snap up the condos and turn them into big apartment buildings. It's happened before in West Valley City, and the results weren't pretty.

But I would submit that the real difference between the projects isn't where they are spatially but where they are temporally. Valley Fair has hit the point where the plan runs smack into reality. Current and potential tenants have demands, ranging from parking to completion dates, and you either meet those demands or you don't have tenants, a bad thing for any landlord. Cottonwood Mall is still in the dream stage. We'll see how well the plans survive when General Growth Properties realizes the logistical problems of demolishing and rebuilding a mall at the intersection of two busy and under-constructed roads and with an established, residential neighborhood on the third side. We'll also see how marketable their condos are when, in spite of being in Holladay, potential buyers see that the project faces marginal strip malls to the north and west.

No Gondola in Ogden

So the Ogden city council has thrown a monkey wrench in Chris Peterson's development plans up by the Mount Ogden Golf Course. The council doesn't like how the proposal will reduce open space and public access to the mountains.

I need to make a disclaimer. I represent people involved in this project. If it goes through, they make money, and consequently I make money.

I must say this problem has not suddenly cropped up. It's been present from the beginning of the project, so Mayor Matthew Godfrey's volte-face may seem disingenuous at first glance. There has been a major change since the mayor first backed the plan, though: Weber State has refused to sell any of its land to the project. It seems WSU is expecting to expand and is running out of room to do so. Taking this plan back to the drawing board has been inevitable since WSU said, "No."

This project is still workable. Salt Lake County has permitted plenty of development on the bench while protecting trail access. And the project has a definite ace in the hole: let's face it, gondolas are fun.