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SALT LAKE CITY — Rich Day didn't have much to say as he stood Monday in front of a small group of people on an empty lot of what will soon be a new luxury apartment complex project within Salt Lake City's Ballpark neighborhood.
After having to wait about three years to start construction, primarily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic-related delays, who could blame him for wanting to get to work right away? After a short speech clocking in at just under 2 minutes, Day and a handful of others behind the Tradition Pointe Luxury Apartments grabbed shovels and ceremoniously broke ground on a project that is expected to bring 77 more rental housing units to a neighborhood literally on the rise.
"This has been a long time coming," Day said. "With everything that's happened, you know (in) 2020, I don't even want to say the word but what happened in 2020 and everything kind of shutting down — and to get to this point where we're groundbreaking (today) is pretty exciting."
Building in Ballpark
But the delays in getting Tradition Pointe off the ground appear to be quite serendipitous for Day, who acquired a plot of land on what used to be single-story apartments just west of West Temple on 1400 South in late 2019.
Less than a year after Day acquired the land, Salt Lake City leaders announced the Ballpark Station Area Plan, a major revitalization project for the area by the ballpark and the Ballpark TRAX station — both places are within two blocks of the planned apartment complex.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall unveiled a draft of city plans for the area last year, including a new crosswalk by the station, investments in new community amenities and green space and a "festival street" less than a block from the forthcoming apartments.
It's clear that Smith's Ballpark is the crown jewel of the area. Earlier this month, city leaders offered the Salt Lake Bees a legacy lease that will keep the team at the ballpark beyond the end of their lease with the city in 2024; they also heard plans to renovate the stadium and add new developments surrounding it in the near future. All of these developments mean that Tradition Pointe is close to the center of all the redevelopment planned for the neighborhood.
Day said he didn't know the city would spend so much attention in this area when he bought the land; however, he could see the neighborhood's potential, which inspired the purchase.
For him, the biggest draws are its location near Interstate 15, the Ballpark TRAX station and its relative proximity to downtown. He found a spot within a transit-oriented development zone, which reduces the total number of parking spots required for the project. As the city becomes denser and people start to ditch cars, he envisions the complex attracting university students or young professionals who will hop on the light rail service to go anywhere in the valley.
While it's unknown at the moment what the rental rates will be at the moment, Day said he believes placing a complex away from downtown will also help lower rent prices for the people moving in.
"We really focus in on data before we buy a piece of land. ... We liked the data, we liked the numbers here," he said. "We weren't aware that the city was planning on a full development. ... I love with what the city has (in mind)."
Tradition Pointe is also an example of how the neighborhood is rising off the ground. It is one of several Ballpark projects either complete, under construction or planned for the near future that are at least four stories or higher.
Alan Bott, the CEO of Alco Construction, the company hired to build the complex, said that he sees the project as an example of how the growing demand for housing in Salt Lake City is its reshaping buildings. In many ways, tearing down a single-level complex for a multi-story building is symbolic of what's to come, not only in the Ballpark neighborhood.
Every new building is chipping away at the city's housing deficit, which is blamed for the rising cost of rent. Bott adds that with mortgage rates increasing, he believes all the new apartment projects will help younger adults who are seeking housing in the city.
"I think that's the solution to our housing crisis," he said. "We have to think vertically and that's what we've done here with this project."
Tackling new challenges
The entire cost of the project was not disclosed, but the project may run into new hurdles in the future. It seems that every construction project across the globe is running into the same issues at moment: labor shortages, supply shortages and inflation. All of those have caused rising costs and delayed project timelines.
The project is still on pace to be completed in the next 18 to 20 months, which places the grand opening at the end of 2023 or the start of 2024, according to Day. Pre-leasing will likely begin about two months before the building is finished.
Bott said he believes that plugging along is the best way to handle all the new hurdles plaguing the construction industry.
"It's something we stay ahead of the best that we can. The only way I see to fix it is to keep working, keep going forward," he said. "There's a lot of people who are fearful of what's going to happen in the time to come. Fear stalls progress; the best thing to do is put your boots on the ground, get up each morning, do everything you can to help this economy and this world and progress and proceed."