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SALT LAKE CITY — The location of the forthcoming SOHI Luxury Apartments may appear very underwhelming at the moment.
The planned 153-unit apartment complex, located in the area of 900 South and 400 West, is positioned across the street from Salt Lake City's old fleet facility and sandwiched between an industrial building and an abandoned railroad line in Salt Lake City's Granary District. However, its developers believe the neighborhood won't look like this in the near future, and they're ready to keep the ball rolling in what has suddenly become one of the city's fastest-growing areas.
"We're actually the first construction project to get started in this neighborhood, this district," said Rich Day, the owner of Rich Day Group, the real estate investment firm behind the project, as he stood on an empty lot Thursday morning. "This whole area will be revitalized and we get to be the catalyst or the springboard to all that development and construction."
Moments later, he and others behind the project drove shovels into a patch of dirt dumped onto the lot for a groundbreaking ceremony. The actual groundbreaking and start of construction are expected to begin as early as next month, as the final paperwork is completed to get construction going.
The project is expected to add a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units to the area by the time it is complete, currently scheduled for the end of 2025. There may be more projects underway by then, as Salt Lake City's business and residential growth move into areas south of downtown.
Tapping into the Granary District
Rich Day Group originally acquired the plot of land in 2019 as the developers began to look at the Granary District. Day explained that all the data the group reviews as it buys new properties indicated the district was about to explode in new development.
Around the same time the group purchased its property, Salt Lake City officials started a process of rezoning the Fleet Block as part of a major project to revitalize the area.
"Our goal is to find places that could really use a lift and a help," Day told KSL.com. "You can see, as you go up and down the streets, there are some vacancies. ... When you have new construction (and) new development, you get new life and new energy that people are excited to be a part of."
However, a series of holdups, including different building designs, delayed the project from moving forward until now. The Fleet Block project also hit delays, beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing with an even more complex subject.
It became the center of the 2020 social justice movement in Salt Lake City. Activists painted large murals of George Floyd and others who were killed by police in cases that have either been determined as justified or unjustified over the past few years, turning it into a "healing spot." The city altered some of its plans for the property as a result but it began moving forward with the project again last year.
The section of Salt Lake City started to flourish as more restaurants, retailers and white-collar businesses renovated and reimagined the area's old manufacturing buildings between 2019 and now. District leaders tout it as the city's "most vibrant neighborhood" because of the creativity found all around the area, making Day's purchase look even more appealing.
Making the district more residential
The COVID-19 delays gave developers more time to figure out what they wanted to do with their land. After reviewing multiple building uses and building heights, Rich Day Group settled on a 153-unit apartment complex.
The company's project offers a mix of bedroom sizes as it looks to kick off residential construction in the district. Utah artist Jimmi Torro was also hired to paint an 80-foot mural on the exterior of the building as a nod to the other artwork in the district, while the project is also expected to include various amenities.
"We need the housing in the city, we need the housing in the state, and we wanted to (build) something to bring back life into this area," Day said. "So rather than (building) more industrial, we elected to pursue a really nice multifamily project."
Of course, other construction issues have come up since the plan came together. The latest problem is uncertainty in the financial sector, an issue that has delayed some other projects from going forward in the city this year. Day said his team has mostly cleared those hurdles, though it is still in the process of finalizing its financing before construction begins.
Once complete, the project is expected to be a step toward making the district a stronger mix of residents and businesses as it continues to grow. It's not just the Fleet Block project across the street; the Salt Lake City Council is also looking to amend building heights in the neighborhood to add density to the city's downtown core and surrounding areas, which will likely spur more development.
Day believes the complex — and the neighborhood — will ultimately become "a center point" for college students, young professionals and young families in the near future.
"It will be fun for those who live here to watch the construction, the progress and development of (the district)," he said.