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Salt Lake City’s Granary District: Past and Future

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On February 17, Mayor Ralph Becker and the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning presented a symposium that focused on exploring the transformative possibilities in the city’s Granary District. 

The Granary District is an area roughly bounded by 600 South and 900 South, and 300 West and Interstate-15. Historically, it was a gateway for industry and railroad uses; the area is currently comprised mainly of low-density warehouses, commercial buildings and many vacant lots. The area is home to a growing group of entrepreneurs, artists, artisans, musicians, and local businesses that add to the character of the Granary, making it unique from any other place in the city.

Planners, business owners, neighbors, students gather at Frida Bistro to discuss new directions for Salt Lake's Granary District. credit: Lance Tyrell

Nan Ellin, chair of the U’s Department of City and Metropolitan Planning, kicked off the symposium by introducing the diverse guests the event brought together to share their stories, knowledge, and involvement with the Granary District.

The past present and future of the Granary District were the interwoven, overlapping themes that resonated throughout the presentation. The area’s distinct grid pattern that follows the railroad tracks, and the dozens of warehouses, are representative of the neighborhood’s industrial beginnings. When Frida Bistro owner and Granary district pioneer, Jorge Fierro, spoke about respectfully renovating the building where his restaurant is located, he said, “Who am I to change history?” The students in the Salt Lake City Workshop are not going to change the history of the Granary District. Rather, we regard it as a stepping off point. College of Architecture and Planning Dean Brenda Scheer described the interrelatedness among these themes when she said, “What is the history of this place, is also the future of this place.” 

DJ Baxter, Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency for Salt Lake City talked about what lies ahead for the RDA in the Granary District . credit: Lance Tyrell

There are a lot of exciting conversations occurring related to the Granary District. With plans for a possible extension of the downtown streetcar line to run through the heart of the district, and the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency’s efforts to develop the city-owned Fleet Block, there has been a lot of attention from the development community who have their eyes on the building stock and vacant lots. James Alfandre and Christian Harrison of the Kentlands Initiative said it is important for developers and others to not see this neighborhood as a blank slate, but a thriving, diverse neighborhood, complete with “delightfully quirky people.”

The Granary has an existing identity and character that needs to be preserved. Many of the speakers at the symposium discussed some possible ways to accomplish that task. Jess Zimbabwe from the Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C. spoke about some ways to acknowledge and protect the existing assets in the neighborhood. Cities should look at establishing and codifying the rights of existing businesses and uses through building codes as well as land use zoning that offer more flexibility and allow current property owners and tenants to remain in the Granary. We also need to take advantage of the tools we already have with government officials, community leaders, non-profit organizations, and residents working together. 

The future holds exciting possibilities and opportunities for the Granary District. Mayor Ralph Becker spoke about neighborhoods of SLC growing more sustainable, including the Granary which is already home to Artspace Commons, the first LEED Gold Certified building in the State. Other sustainable development projects are being pursued in the area. With possibilities comes change. Mayor Becker emphasized that the way we manage and prepare for this change will play an important role in the future of this community. 

The symposium’s closing remarks came from Dean Sheer who left us with a few insightful statements and words of advice that were said during the symposium. “Fall in love with the scrap,” as Jessica Norie, the executive director of Artspace, did when she spotted the enormous brownfield site where Artspace is now built. Dean Scheer stressed the importance of having people who are committed to this area.  We need to “imagine our future and our place in the Granary.” City and community leaders need to be champions for the Granary, and go one step further with everything they do. When the Granary District’s zoning doesn’t allow for it, we need to “break the rules to make it possible for Jorge to have a restaurant.” We need to embrace the identity of the Granary.

As the Kentlands Initiative website maintains: “The Granary District has always been a productive place, and its brightest future is as a haven for makers — people with dirty hands, big ideas, and warm hearts.”

Today, we can all contribute to shape the future of the Granary. What do you envision for the Granary? For more information and updates on this project please visit: www.slcworkshop.com

www.granarydistrictslc.ning.com

  • http://www.jasaseoonline.com boostid

    building stock and vacant lots, this is wonderful ideas. please update as soon as possible. thanks