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Governor calls to move prison; Draper mayor agrees

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Jan 31st, 2013 @ 7:49pm

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DRAPER — The governor has renewed the call to move the prison from the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, and Draper leaders say the time is right.

In Governor Gary Herbert's State of State address Wednesday night, he said the relocation of the Utah State Prison from Draper would open land up for tech companies, who have expressed interest in the area, and be a long-term economic benefit for the state. He also asked lawmakers to fund the relocation.

The prison occupies 700 acres of prime real estate in Draper along Interstate-15, near Microsoft and eBay offices. Just beyond the Point of the Mountain, companies like Adobe have settled in.

The prison is also a halfway point between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, where young talent is getting ready to launch into the professional world.

"I would say (the economic benefit is) not in the millions, it's in the billions, and not in the single-digit billions," said Al Mansell, of Point West Ventures.

I would say (the economic benefit is) not in the millions, it's in the billions, and not in the single-digit billions.

–Al Mansell, Point West Ventures

Point West Ventures is one of the companies who presented a development plan to the Legislative task force.

Draper Mayor Darrell Smith grew up not far from the prison, which he watched be built. But with property values in Draper drastically changing and technology companies looking at area, he said the prison needs to go.

"It's an exciting time to finally see this getting the appropriate interest and attention," Smith said.

Smith has been on a prison relocation committee and has seen the interest that piece of land draws.

The Bluffdale City border is also near the prison and city leaders already have transportation plans drawn up in case the prison is gone.

It has not been determined where the prison would be moved, though Tooele has been identified as a possible relocation site.

If the prison is moved to Tooele, some concerns about the relocation include employment impacts on both Tooele and Draper areas, security, and reasonable access for prison volunteers and inmate families visiting the prison.

According to Point West Ventures, demolishing the old prison and constructing a new one could cost as much as $650 million.

Some estimate that a new 4,000- to 5,000-bed prison could be built in 24 months.

Research shows savings in newer buildings, too. Some of the existing buildings are 80 years old and saddled with $200 million dollars of deferred maintenance, inefficiencies and cramped quarters. Together, researchers said, that could offset the cost of relocation.

Contributing: Celeste Tholen Rosenlof and Randall Jeppesen

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