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Sugar House Journal

Former Shopko site slowly transforms into ‘Park Avenue’

Jul 20, 2018 14h45 ● By Jana Klopsch

A view of the construction site from the third floor of the future Sugar House Health Center. (Lawrence Linford/City Journals)

By Lawrence Linford | [email protected]

Developers are building 550,000 square feet — the equivalent of 10 football fields — of medical, office and residential space along with a three-level underground parking garage at the former Shopko site in Sugar House.

“It’s one of the larger privately funded developments in Salt Lake City,” said Mark Isaac, the local representative for Westport Capital Partners, the owners of the development. Originally assessed at $150 million around the project’s groundbreaking ceremony in October 2017, the construction remains roughly on schedule and is slated to open the third quarter of 2019.

Named “Park Avenue” because it’s in between Sugar House Park and Fairmont Park, the complex will eventually consist of three large buildings. The large steel skeleton rising off 1300 East just before I-80 will become a new 170,000-square-foot, five-story University of Utah Health Center called the Sugar House Health Center.

A second 150,000-square-foot office building will be built later on the property’s south side. Finally, a 150-unit multi-family residential community, will be constructed on the west side,

In 2016, the developers started reaching out to the community through surveys for their feedback on the new project. They received over 2,700 responses.

Traffic congestion was a consistent concern and better walkability a consistent desire. Park Avenue’s design worked to alleviate the traffic concerns by re-opening Stringham Avenue to connect 1300 East and Highland Drive, two critical and often congested streets in Sugar House.

“We did extensive traffic and circulation studies along with walkability studies,” said Isaac, “and we worked very hard to increase walkability.” Studies showed re-opening Stringham Avenue actually will improve traffic circulation in Sugar House despite the additional traffic load the development will add.

“It actually has a trickle-down effect helping to improve traffic flow at other intersections around the community,” said Isaac.

Local businesses were also interested in increased foot traffic.

“This project is purposefully being built without a cafeteria in either of those two office buildings,” said Judi Short, chair of the Sugar House Community Council Land Use Committee. “So the idea is that the staff will go down into the business district to have lunch.”

“Of the 550,000 square feet we’re adding, only 10,000 will be for new retail space,” said Isaac, stressing the project will only add a limited amount of retail competition.

Along with directly communicating with the community, the developers also “worked really extensively with the Sugar House Community Council before the project was started to mitigate any potential hard feelings,” said Salt Lake City Councilwoman Amy Fowler, who represents Sugar House.

Fowler was enthusiastic about the project and said regarding the new Sugar House Health Center, “I think it’ll be a really great asset. As we continue to grow in Sugar House we really have a need for greater medical attention.”

The new Sugar House Health Center will be “a comprehensive outpatient center,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer for Ambulatory Health with University of Utah Health. “We’ll have primary care, women’s health, rehabilitation, and specialty services. We’ll run the gamut from preventative medicine to advanced cancer rehabilitation.”

“We really want to be a presence in the community,” said Orlandi.

Although it has yet to be built, the developers are already leasing space for the second office building. Isaac didn’t name specific companies that have leased space. “We let them make the announcement, we don’t want to steal their thunder,” he said.

“The structure will attract very good tenants that will bring a good workforce and talent pool to the area,” said Lloyd Allen, managing director and principal broker for CBRE, the company leasing the second office building. Allen added that Utah’s office space vacancy is low at 11 percent with Sugar House at just over 2 percent.

Isaac said the residential community likely won’t begin leasing for another year.

Currently, construction is still in Phase 1 (out of three): building the underground garage and the first tower. “We hauled out over 135,000 cubic yards of material,” said Isaac, “and now we’re slowly building it up.” Phase 2, the construction of the second tower, begins in late summer of 2018. And Phase 3, the tower three construction, starts in spring of 2019.