Salt Lake City is attracting more than businesses these days. In addition to corporate headquarters, Utah’s capital is becoming the residence of choice for executives because of its proximity to the airport, active arts community and urban setting.
Although 3,000 people now live in the urban core, for native Utahns, “It’s a real paradigm shift to live in a downtown area,” says Carla Wiese, economic development director for the Downtown Alliance. “We’re a suburban living area. That’s just how Salt Lake has been.”
Executives from other areas, however, also find appeal in urban living. “We’re getting a broad, metropolitan mindset among our executives who are coming here, and they want to live in that kind of environment,” says Wiese. “If they live downtown, they’re right across the street from the symphony and ballet. They’re within walking distance of the coffee shop. They can go to a Broadway play. They can go see an event at the Rose Wagner. At 9th and 9th, they’re right there among all these great quaint, little, local shops that you don’t see anywhere else, and they don’t have to get into their cars to do that. It fits their lifestyle better.”
It’s not just executives from out of town who are seeking to live downtown, says Babs De Lay, principal broker for Utah Homes and Estates. “I also see empty-nesters wanting a second home, young professionals and women. Women are typically a strong market for a condo because of the secure parking and building.”
While security is a primary concern for many urban dwellers, it’s not the only asset they look for when considering a home. Many want a building with a little more personality than a typical apartment complex, De Lay says. “That’s why the Avenues and Sugar House have always remained popular, because of the personality of the houses.”
Other trendy areas in downtown Salt Lake are 9th and 9th, 15th and 15th, 21st and 11th, 3rd and 3rd, E Street and the neighborhood around the University of Utah. All of these are within walking distance of TRAX or in established neighborhoods with a good mix of small neighborhood businesses and residential, De Lay says.
One up-and-coming area is west of Rose Park, she adds, where some commercial projects are developing. “I think we’re going to see a huge change in the demographics of especially Rose Park because the TRAX line to the airport will be done within three years and there will be several stations along North Temple where people can walk from Rose Park or take a bus and hook onto TRAX and get downtown,” De Lay says.
The Metro Condominiums at 350 S. and 200 East, which began selling in February 2007, are an example of the condo attraction in Salt Lake. The project offers a mix of sizes from studios to three-bedroom units, and is already 80 percent occupied. The project would have sold out much earlier except for a restriction on the number of units that can be rented, says director of sales and marketing Andrew Pratt, who also is the listing broker.
“We turned away a lot of speculative interest early on,” Pratt says, pointing out that the project requires that 75 percent of the units be owner occupied. “We’re not a condo-hotel. We are a legitimate residential building.”
The smaller units were most popular; Metro’s 19 studio and 19 one-bedroom units sold out soon after the project was launched, and a total of 60 units sold in nine days, Pratt says.
Proximity to TRAX is a key amenity for the Metro, Pratt says, along with the fact that it’s new. “A lot of owners are concerned about special assessments, so they want to have a new building,” he says. “Unknown capital expenditures after they buy can be painful. New construction comes with warranties on the structure.”
DeLay says there’s also interest in green-built projects, adding that the 24-unit Rowhaus sold out last fall, and had they been available, believes she could have sold more units. Now she’s working with a developer who is putting in 12 live/work units with a complete solar option. “It’s the first project of its kind, and I think people are going to be very interested in that,” she says. “The sustainability factor is becoming much more popular; however, not a lot of people are building that right now.”
An exception is the City Creek Center, now underway in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, which will be LEED certi-fied. The project calls for 750 residential units, according to downtownrising.com. Most of these will be in condominium towers along South Temple St. and 100 S.
“City Creek Center is going to be such a hot spot for residential,” Wiese says. “If they build a condo for everyone who’s on their interest list, they’d have to get rid of all their retail and put nothing but condos there. There’s such an amount of interest, not only in the product itself but the quality of the residential that will be there, both rental and owner-occupied.”