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The Point housing development wants to be a utopian city, but is it really a utopian city, or is it just another housing development?

The Point wants to be a utopian city

Billionaire Marc Lore recently announced that Utah was among a shortlist of areas he was considering for a futuristic city designed to bridge the wealth gap.

But Utah may not need Lore.

The state revealed plans for its own innovative community called The Point, a 600-acre project in Draper designed to be a “one-car community.” Residents may have more than one car, but they won’t need one. The city is designed to be walkable, bikeable, and with easy access to mass transit in mind. 

The Utah State Prison now sits on the property, but by the years’ end, inmates will be moved to a new facility in Salt Lake and demolition of the prison will begin. The hope is that by spring of 2023, developers will begin construction for a 20-year project that state leaders say will be a “legacy that will remain for generations.”

“It will almost be a mini-city, but one in which you can walk or ride your bike with ease and safety,” says Peter Kindel, an urban design and planning principal at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the design and engineering firm that created a framework plan for the community.

Rather than driving a car everywhere, some of the anticipated 15,000 residents of the Point could step onto an automated circulator bus that would make regular rounds throughout the neighborhood. Kindel notes that younger people under the age of 30 tend to be less interested in car ownership. “We’re trying to anticipate the workforce of the future,” he says.

Telosa’s selling points include sustainability, energy efficiency, and water conservation. Still, its main hallmark was a land ownership model in which the city would own the land in an endowment—and would be investing the proceeds and using earnings to pay for equal access to healthcare, good schools, parks, safe streets, and transportation. Lore describes it as, “sort of a capitalism, reimagined.” 

The Point housing development wants to be a utopian city, but is it really a utopian city, or is it just another housing development?
The Roadway at the Point of the Mountain. Renderings appear courtesy of The Point

Telosa’s interest in Utah sent a ripple of revolt among a select group of Utahns worried about the lack of water and a “communist” agenda. Though largely welcome, The Point has faced similar backlash from citizens who have argued in public meetings that there should be no development of the site after demolition, citing traffic and air pollution concerns. Salt Lake has the seventh-worst air quality in the world, according to an analysis by California-based digital media firm Quote 360.

But state officials decided that if people are coming to Utah, they need to live and work somewhere. Why not figure out how to enable a more sustainable and smarter way?

The state set up The Point of the Mountain State Land Authority in 2018 to create the new community and has since gathered input from surrounding communities and 10,000 citizens. SOM was selected to develop a framework determining land use, open space, road networks, and building standards based on that feedback.

The buildings in The Point will be designed to emit 50 percent less carbon. The community itself should use less water, minimize vehicle emissions and traffic, and result in one-third fewer vehicle miles traveled, Kindel says. “We think we will be a community that is setting a new benchmark for sustainability,” he says.

About 60 percent of the area will include housing, office, and commercial space as well as retail and restaurants, while 23 percent will be rehabilitated open space including greenways, connected seasonal trails, areas for outdoor concerts, and a park extending from the Jordan River to the Wasatch Mountain Range. Private developers will invest $4.8 billion to build The Point over the next 20 years.

Most of the 7,000 housing units will be apartments, condos, and single-family homes. And the 80-acre core area will be a pedestrian zone with retail and entertainment, ideally located in the heart of the Silicon Slopes—the area’s growing tech industry.

“It’s really rare to find a project of this scale where you have a clean slate to work in the midst of a vibrant tech sector and in the nexus of the two fastest-growing counties in the nation,” says Alan Matheson, executive director of The Point of the Mountain State Land Authority.

The Point housing development wants to be a utopian city, but is it really a utopian city, or is it just another housing development?
Micro mobility options at the Point of the Mountain. Renderings appear courtesy of The Point

In just two years, the concept of the 15-minute city has gone from relatively obscure in urban planning to a catchphrase among property developers and marketers. Telosa also touts a 15-minute design where schools, hospitals, and work centers are within walking or cycling distance. In Egypt, a greenfield development called Il Bosco City has a similar bent, as does Island Quarter in Nottingham, United Kingdom. Prince Charles also started Poundbury in England, which has no zoning and is designed to limit cars. 

While the spread of the concept is ideal, there is some concern that it’s becoming just another development marketing slogan. “Only time will tell whether new developments live up to these goals, or if project proponents throw in a few mixed-used elements and call it a day,” writes Dan Luscher, founder and adviser of the 15-Minute City Project, which aims to help leaders create ambitious, inclusive communities. 

So far, The Point has attracted a lot of attention. From outside company executives who have talked about moving their headquarters there to residents interested in living there and developers interested in participating in the project’s build-out. In the coming months, Utah’s state legislature will develop financing structures so that developers pay a fee instead of property tax, which is not allowed on state property. And in the coming months, the state will select a partnering developer that will guide the first stages of construction and divvy up parts and pieces of the project to other companies.

“We’re looking for developers who will take the long view and really care about this place,” Matheson says. “We want to cast a wide net and be on the world stage. It’s the chance to build something iconic.”

The Point housing development wants to be a utopian city, but is it really a utopian city, or is it just another housing development?
. Renderings appear courtesy of The Point

Jennifer Alsever is a freelance journalist with bylines at Fortune and Marker; and an author of young adult fiction. To learn more about Jennifer visit jenniferalsever.com.

Comments (1)

  • Janelle Garner

    Sounds like a really good town that they want to build or community. Unfortunately the number one problem is in their way it’s called education or should we say the lack of Education in America. Everyone right now should have the number one focus of changing education because if we don’t do this it doesn’t matter what type of communities they’re trying to build. Why? Because they will not be literate enough to hold down any type of job. We already have over a hundred million people in this country who are not literate enough to do their jobs. Send me over an email and I will show you what we are doing to change that problem. Our company has work been working on this for over 25 years and we’re about to bring a brand-new education system to Utah. We already have other states like Arizona California Florida New York and others who want our new system. Looking forward to speaking with you. Janelle Garner

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