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Utah Business

In the face of a growing population, developments like The Point, Mountain View Village and proposed inland port project areas are top-of-mind.

A 10-year forecast of Utah’s commercial real estate industry

This story appears in the 2024 Advisor, a publication sponsored by Colliers Utah. 

Utah’s business-friendly culture is driving a growing number of people to migrate to the state. According to a 2022 report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, Utah’s population is slated to increase from 3.4 million in 2024 to almost 5.5 million by 2060. In the face of this population growth, innovative developments like The Point, Mountain View Village and the state’s eight proposed inland port project areas are top-of-mind. 

Location is key

Population density lends itself to profit when it comes to real estate. Each of the experts consulted for this article mentioned the population growth occurring in Utah County. 

“Utah County is going to be the epicenter of growth,” says Scott Cuthbertson, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “The largest percentage of relative growth [in the state] happens in Utah County.” 

Dejan Eskic, senior research fellow at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and adjunct real estate market analysis professor at the University of Utah, agrees. 

“The last two years, nearly two-thirds of our growth has come from people moving here, and about 39 percent of those people move to Utah County,” he says.

Colliers Utah Executive VP Stuart Thain says the population of Utah County is predicted to exceed the population of even Salt Lake County in the near future. But why Utah County? What sets apart the mass of land from Lehi to Santaquin from the rest of the state?

Simply put, the reason is just that—it’s a mass of land. Thain points out that when it comes to areas that will and won’t experience high population growth, the difference often is simply a matter of geography. “People are migrating to Utah County because of the abundance of vacant land,” he says.

Wasatch Front population growth rates. | Graphic courtesy of Ernie Cottle

This principle is illustrated with places like Davis and Weber County, which—while also experiencing growth—don’t quite compare to Utah County as a lucrative real estate market. When it comes to development in those areas, Thain points out, you eventually run into the Great Salt Lake. 

The difference between good location and better one can be as simple as the presence of a lake or mountain. And, as always, the balance of cost and value. 

“In areas like Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain, Santaquin, Payson … they’re just getting started with their residential development there, so it’s still somewhat affordable,” Thain says.

What’s The Point?

A bit further north, at Point of the Mountain, a new project is underway. A 600-acre redevelopment, The Point is being looked at as a model for smart growth by national and global experts—and in addition to exemplifying Utah’s growth, it’s predicted to augment it.

When Cuthbertson was asked which real estate projects he believes will be the most significant in the next decade, The Point was the first to come to mind. “It’s on state-owned land, which gives it the advantage of being built out more patiently,” he says. 

With walkability, sustainability and affordable housing prioritized, Cuthbertson believes The Point is primed to become an economic driver for the state that will attract companies across various industries.

“The first phase of [The Point] will be about 100 acres,” Cuthbertson says. A few local firms have been awarded the rights to develop the first phase, which will bring about 400,000 square feet of retail event space, about 3,300 multifamily units, hotel space, green space, a couple million square feet of office space and a new FrontRunner station to the area.

“The last 10 years in the Utah economy have been very growth-oriented.”

Going west

As for Salt Lake County, growth is trending toward the west side—specifically the southwest corner, Eskic says. 

“If you look at where the land is, the east side [of the Salt Lake Valley] is pretty much built out,” he continues, indicating that development on the east side tends to be reconstruction—old buildings being demolished or reconverted. This means that, in Salt Lake County, the west side is the place for new development while the east side is the place for redevelopment.

One project that has taken advantage of growth in west Salt Lake County is Mountain View Village, a shopping mall in Riverton, Utah.

“It’s brought retail experience to one of the fastest growing areas in Salt Lake County,” Eskic says, noting that while residents in Herriman, Riverton and South Jordan once had to drive east to do their shopping, they now have a retail/mixed use development of their own. 

“It’s finally serving a demand that’s been there for years,” he continues.

The Northwest Quadrant inland port project area is also predicted to boost real estate in Utah as it generates the property taxes required to make real estate projects in the area feasible.

“The property taxes generated within a geographic area of an inland port are specifically allocated to public infrastructure in those areas,” says Colliers Utah EVP Jarrod Hunt. “Let’s say a developer has a thousand acres of land. There are no roads and no sewer, no water, no electricity. That could cost millions—even tens of millions—to bring all that infrastructure onto that site. With this inland port concept, … we can take the millions of dollars this project generates a year in property taxes and earmark a large portion of that property tax to pay back that investment.”

5.5 million by 2060

Above all, Hunt predicts that migration to Utah will continue to grow. 

“The last 10 years in the Utah economy have been very growth-oriented; … e-commerce has really changed the landscape. It has equalized locations,” he says. “If everything’s going in a brown box and delivered to a customer, nobody really cares where that brown box is coming from.”

Hunt believes a thriving e-commerce sector has allowed business owners the freedom to prioritize personal preferences of where they want to live. A lower cost of living and a more favorable tax environment have replaced proximity to customers as the priority for business owners, providing landlocked and less populated areas—like Salt Lake City—with the opportunity to flourish. 

“I see that speeding up,” Hunt says. 

Rachel Barnes graduated with a BA from Brigham Young University in 2022 as valedictorian of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. She got into journalism when she realized it was a career that encapsulated her true passion: briefly and intensely becoming very, very interested in a niche topic, learning everything she can about it, and then telling people all about it.