Construction of a sustainable community at The Point in Draper, Utah is scheduled to begin as early as 2024 on the old prison site.

The Point continues working toward its ‘grand vision’

Construction of a sustainable community at The Point in Draper, Utah is scheduled to begin as early as 2024 on the old prison site.

This article first appeared in The Advisor in May 2023, a publication sponsored by Colliers Utah.

In 2018, the Utah State Legislature passed a law that would seek to redevelop 600 acres of state-owned land at the Point of the Mountain. On Nov. 29, 2022, the former towers of the Utah State Prison fell as a crowd of 150 people looked on. In its place, the state has planned to replace the former Draper facility with a 600-acre, sustainably constructed community called The Point.

The entity overseeing redevelopment of the site is the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority (Land Authority). After a months-long competitive selection process to identify a partner with demonstrable experience building large-scale, sustainable communities, the Land Authority selected Innovation Point Partners (IPP) to develop the first phase of The Point.

In December 2022, the Land Authority, in collaboration with IPP, released the Phase I Development Plans. Located at the heart of the site, the first phase of development encompasses approximately 100 acres—one-sixth of the overall site. Plans include world-class retail, shopping and entertainment venues; a people-focused main street with biking, walking and transit options called “The Promenade;” and a place for The Point’s Innovation District efforts dubbed “Innovation Row.” 

This transformation of space from scratch has now begun its work in 2023 with several early-stage goals in mind, according to Abbey Ehman, VP at Lincoln Property Company, the lead developer on the IPP team.

“We have strong local partners and a national team of experts that are committed to building a socially responsible, sustainable development,” Ehman says. “This represents one of the most significant development opportunities in the country in recent years and is an incredible opportunity to implement many of the cutting-edge solutions that positively benefit the local community.”

Early needs are going to include thinking through issues like transit, innovation and attracting outsiders to move to Utah. In particular, Ehman says transit is a key way to ensure that the future community of more than 20,000 tech workers will be innovative.

“We actually have the ability to forecast our needs, think about transit and make an innovative city that embraces sustainability that is meant to be a catalyst for grand ideas,” Ehman continues. “That’s the grand vision, and for that, we are in a really good spot.”

That “grand vision” goes beyond simply building a new, sustainable city. The Point, she says, aims to bring a mix of mainly tech workers from both inside and outside Utah. It will have a focus on diversity and creativity built into the community, and will connect two parts of the region currently separated by a great distance.

“We are not wasting any time starting to build what Utahns want at The Point,” says Alan Matheson, The Point’s executive director. “The Phase I Development Plans reflect robust public feedback and will catalyze future development for many years to come.”

On top of that, the idea is to ensure that diversity practices are baked into the program from day one. For example, Ehman says most Fortune 500 companies have strong diversity initiatives that are worthwhile to replicate and consider while building something new. She also points out that there are many different voices in the team developing the project, which shows diversity is a strong point of focus from the beginning.

"Plans include world-class retail, shopping and entertainment venues; a people-focused main street with biking, walking and transit options called 'The Promenade;' and a place for The Point’s Innovation District efforts dubbed 'Innovation Row.' "

“We prioritize local hiring practices and also diversity in our projects,” Ehman says. “[With three firms on the development team], there’s a number of different voices on the project…that alone speaks to the importance of diversity.”

In the 2023 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, lawmakers signaled strong support for The Point through generational investments in critical infrastructure and policies that will advance a future-focused, innovative and sustainable development. Legislators allocated $108 million for critical backbone infrastructure in addition to the $57 million they allocated in 2022.

The funds are a loan to the Point of the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund that will be paid back with future revenues generated from The Point. Coupled with over $2.3 billion in private-sector investment from IPP for Phase I, this historic investment will quite literally lay the groundwork for future development. Major infrastructure projects will extend Porter Rockwell Boulevard, construct major roadways, the “River-to-Range” regional trail and install major utilities.

In addition to the $165 million from the Legislature in 2022 and 2023, lawmakers invested $200 million to strategically double track FrontRunner and add a station at The Point. They also allocated $50 million to fund Convergence Hall, the building that will house The Point’s Innovation District’s work.

The Legislature clarified the Land Authority’s oversight at The Point, created a new board position to be filled by an elected official from a neighboring community, codified measures to fund affordable housing and created the Utah Innovation Lab. The funding and the accompanying policies will provide a statewide benefit and catalyze development.

“We are taking a prudent approach to development that ensures we protect the public’s investment at the site,” Matheson says. “This investment from the Legislature demonstrates the state’s commitment to support current and future development at The Point, address regional transportation needs, catalyze economic opportunity and maximize Utahns’ return on investment.”

In the coming months, the Land Authority will further refine the Phase I Development Plans, conduct preliminary engineering and oversee site preparation. Demolition of the decades-old prison facilities is scheduled to continue through 2023. Construction of critical backbone infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, is scheduled to start as early as 2024, with vertical buildings beginning in 2026. 

“We are focused on creating a sustainable community with unprecedented economic potential that provides Utahns with world-class entertainment, innovative technology and recreational amenities,” Ehman says. “Our team is collaborating with the Land Authority and community stakeholders to implement a shared, publicly supported vision for The Point. We are excited for what the future holds.”

Many people love visiting Utah and dream about living in the Beehive State, Ehman says, claiming, “Part of the reason that they are not yet in Utah is that a place like [The Point] doesn’t exist yet.”

Soon, it will—a hub for innovation, sustainability and job opportunities built right into the community.

Jack Dodson is a reporter and documentary filmmaker most recently based in Palestine-Israel from 2018-2022. He has reported for Vice, BBC, The Intercept, Middle East Eye, among many others. He has a master’s in investigative journalism and documentary from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree from Elon University in rhetoric.