Potential Prison Redevelopment Land Use and PerspectivesIn 1847 when the pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young shared a famous statement: “this is the place.” This phrase, nearly 200 years later, is still remembered as being shared at a monumental moment for our state. Today, civic and business leaders are echoing a similar sentiment regarding the generational opportunity created by the movement of the prison property at the area commonly known as “The Point of the Mountain.”

When it was decided that the prison site would be moved, the 2015 legislature passed H.B. 318, Point of the Mountain Development Commission, a 15-member group composed of leaders from cities and counties throughout the state, the business community, and other local decision-makers to foster a plan for not just 700-acre prison property, but the more than 20,000 acres of developable space in the region.

This month the first Point of the Mountain Development Commission convened to begin discussions on the future of the Point of the Mountain Project. The commission is assigned to provide the legislature with findings and recommendations regarding the property’s development, as well as to suggest funding strategies to address that development.

“It is clear that, if done wisely, there is substantial opportunity for our state’s economy in the redevelopment of the current Draper location,” said Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Every Utahn has an interest in the future of this property. As a business community, we will actively engage to ensure this generational opportunity is not squandered.”

This corridor of growth encompasses 17 cities and the property’s location provides opportunity to combine Southern Salt Lake County with Northern Utah County, linking the state’s largest two economies into a collective regional economy. According to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, the region – or “SO-NO Corridor” is currently home to 40% of the increase in jobs statewide from 2010-2014. It’s a pivotal point where the Wasatch Front has joined the national stage. The benefits reach further than the Wasatch Front as the property represents the most invaluable development project in the United States—attracting more than just Utahns. Prison property stakeholders collectively recognize that poor planning here equates to lost economic opportunity.

“We are watching economic history in the making,” said Natalie Gochnour, associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber. “We’re seeing an economic reaction at the Point of Mountain and it is boiling over.”

(You can read more of Natalie’s thoughts in her recent column on the subject.)

With growing populations and increased urban density, the project provides a generational opportunity, but requires collaboration, innovation and vision if it is to reap long-term benefits. The business community must engage to levy the opportunities that will certainly arise.

Mark Bouchard, senior managing director of the commercial real estate services firm CBRE and a member of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Board of Governors, urged the commission at their first meeting to think globally about the area’s potential development.

“This site absolutely will attract global interest. Depending on how it is brought to market, there will be many, many global entities interested in the dynamics of Utah because of the publicity we receive and all the other data points that we score high on,” Bouchard said. “You as a commission have the opportunity to create something that has never been created before in the United States. You should be bold and creative and think innovatively.”

The business community cannot sit idle. Even in the early stages of outlining we must ensure that government stakeholders make the right public investments in capital to garner wide reaching benefits. It is obvious that, with the proper vision, the Point of the Mountain Project will provide the same historical significance as the pioneers’ cultivation of the Salt Lake Valley when Brigham Young declared, “this is the place”.  

In the months and years ahead the Salt Lake Chamber will continue to provide regular updates and events centered on maximizing this opportunity for our state’s economy.