Salt Lake County Regional Development News
According to Days of '47, thousands of pioneers pulled handcarts or drove wagons with oxen or horses across the plains to a vast desert landscape, occupied by various Native American groups, that became known as the Utah Territory after they entered the valley on July 24, 1847.
"Coming together from many nations, they sought to create a new life. This trek of the early Utah pioneers exemplifies the courage, foresight and faith that continue to inspire modern-day pioneers."
To honor the spirit of foresight and innovation, we seek to work with all communities in Salt Lake County to facilitate modern-day pioneering in areas that will improve the quality of life for all residents.
4 Ways We're Pioneering Today in Salt Lake County
1. Plain Air
Air quality is among one of the top issues for all residents, and rightly so. We want air as clean as it was in 1847. To help improve it, multiple projects have launched or are in development to assess air pollution hot spots in Salt Lake County. For example, a new partnership with University of Utah, UTA, and DEQ will track air quality on electric bus routes to show residents and policymakers where air quality is poorest. This will allow us to strategically target resources; when built out, Salt Lake County can have the most detailed air quality monitoring map in the world.
2. Following the Trail ... of Economic Data
Early in the pandemic, Salt Lake County sought to have a better understanding of current economic conditions. Many indicators lag for months, which made it difficult to assess the current situation, which sectors were most impacted, and how they were bouncing back after initial closures.
Utilizing the skills of the Office of Data and Innovation, Salt Lake County created a public Economic Info Portal that takes data from places like the Utah State Tax Commission, and others, and presents them in a digestible way as soon as they are released. It's been able to visualize, for example, how accommodations is one of the few remaining sectors to recover to 2019 taxable sales numbers, as of May 2021.
3. Home, Home within a Range
Housing is one area that Utah must pioneer and innovate. With limited developable space along the Wasatch Front, Utah's housing market is in a crisis between limited supply, rising construction costs, and lack of attainable housing. As part of Salt Lake County's Regional Solutions series, 2021 will focus on Missing Middle Housing. Expert and architect Daniel Parolek will share and facilitate discussion on new and creative ways to generate more affordable and attainable housing in Utah. Interested in attending this fall? Stay tuned!
4. Pioneering Tax Increment Financing
Hold on to your Pioneer Day sparklers, you read correctly. Salt Lake County has spent much time in 2021 modernizing our approach to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to better serve taxpayers and future developments.
TIF is a tool used for economic development by municipalities to stimulate private development for the betterment of the community in certain project areas that, but for the use of tax increment dollars, redevelopment would otherwise prove unlikely or difficult. As part of the ongoing process of improving Salt Lake County's TIF policy and becoming a better partner, a new webpage launched at slco.org/economic-development/TIF, where the TIF Area Project Database, future templates, and more detailed project application criteria can be found.
July 22, 2021
As Utah experiences economic recovery from the initial impacts of the pandemic, and real estate continues to skyrocket, EDCUtah poised how the private and public sector can strike a balance when it comes to current and future development, given the extra stresses added with rising costs in construction and in real estate.
Alan Rindlisbacher, Director of Community Strategy at EDCUtah, shared advice on striking a balance in real estate development. What perhaps received the most emphasis was the need for the public sector to recognize and remember that time is money — or as Angela Eldredge, COO at Price Real Estate, said, “Time kills all deals.”
Among Alan's other advice to Salt Lake County entities?
Understand a development's goals. It's important to make sure public and private parties are on the same page for the goals of the project.
Trends in Industrial Real Estate in Salt Lake County
Angela shared insight into the state of the industrial real estate in Salt Lake County following the pandemic and how it economically impacted this specific sector of the local real estate market.
She reported that as land prices have seen 187% increase over last year, paired with an increase in construction costs, that acquiring land is tough right now. Challenges and trends include:
- Land is beginning to be constrained here. Across Salt Lake Valley, land that's developable is mostly under control or in the cycle that an investor bought it with the intent to develop.
- Land banking for a future development cycle is less likely to happen than in previous years. With an increase in costs, investors are more constrained to develop immediately.
- The pandemic was good for industrial real estate. According to Angela, vacancies prior were closer to 20% and now stand at nearly 1% at their company. Tenants realized they need more space, as customers don't want to wait for weeks for products to be delivered. Amazon set a benchmark for delivery and other businesses are working to follow suit to avoid losing sales — that means more warehousing and distribution centers.
- Trailer storage has increased.
- Expect more manufacturing to come to the Salt Lake County market. There are opportunities in rural communities and outliers. The challenge for developers and tenants is to have a vision with the city and "be nimble."
Industrial real estate "became the darling" real estate sector during COVID-19 when retail was hit heavily. Some investors and developers chose to get into the industrial sector that haven't been there before.
July 16, 2021
Channeling Utah’s innovative spirit, a pilot program is launching in Salt Lake County to collect real-time air quality data in an internationally unprecedented way.
New air quality monitors are being installed on Utah Transit Authority’s electric buses for two routes crossing east and west sides of Salt Lake County, which will provide scientists, leaders, and residents mobile real-time air quality data.
Collecting data on PM2.5, ozone, and nitrogen oxide levels through these electric bus air monitors will give policymakers a better understanding of which communities are at an increased risk of breathing unhealthy air and implement more targeted incentive and regulatory measures to save money and generate higher reductions in pollution.
“Improving the air we breathe is a top priority and concern for us, and to accelerate more equitable environmental gains, we must have better data. I believe we’ll achieve that in a remarkable way through this new electric bus air monitor program so we can better serve residents who are facing the worst of pollution,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said.
For example, this mobile platform will have the ability to discover pollution hot spots, neighborhood by neighborhood, allowing policymakers to channel resources and efforts more effectively to those specific areas with high air pollution.
This joint effort comes from the collaboration of University of Utah, UTA, Utah Division of Air Quality, and Salt Lake County experts. The pilot is being supported by funding from Salt Lake County, UTA, Rocky Mountain Power, UCAIR, WFRC, University of Utah, and the Utah Legislature.
“The electric bus air quality project will augment our already dense network composed of stationary and mobile platforms (on TRAX) to establish the world's densest air quality observation platform using reliable, high-quality research grade sensors,” said Daniel Mendoza, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Pulmonary Medicine, and City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. “This effort will facilitate analysis for public health and policy purposes that will help us address environmental justice concerns. We are excited to start the research and are grateful for the wide-ranging partnership that worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.”
The project will serve as a model that can be scaled to increase real-time air quality monitoring coverage across all communities in Salt Lake County, which when built out, will create the most detailed pollution mapping system in the world.
“Riding UTA can play a significant role in reducing pollution and improving air quality,” said Carlton Christensen, Chair of the UTA Board of Trustees. “Air monitors installed on TRAX provided valuable data in this effort, and we’re excited to be part of innovative approaches to help address critical public health challenges. We appreciate our partnership with Salt Lake County, the University of Utah, DAQ, and all who have made this project happen.”
Air quality monitors have been used in Salt Lake County since 1963 to help us better understand the contaminants in the air that are unhealthy to breathe. Data collected through these electric bus air monitors will be available on a website for public consumption following initial trial runs.
June 28, 2021
One of the industries significantly impacted early in the pandemic was retail. So, how is Salt Lake County retail and commercial retail real estate fairing in 2021?
According to Danny Woodbury, Director of Leasing at Woodbury Corporation, the former narrative of a retail reckoning or “apocalypse now” never happened. While COVID-19 might have helped cull existing weak retailers, Woodbury said, many were successful and adapted to incorporate technology. Retail like sporting goods and home improvement had a strong year.
Along the Wasatch, Woodbury has observed:
- Decreased vacancies
- Stable or growing rents
- Generation of “Clicks to Bricks” retailers
- Sales at malls are 12-15% higher in 2021 than pre-COVID
- Construction costs might be the biggest impediment to new development
“The world is changing and we have to embrace these trends if we want these stores to thrive and generate sales tax,” Woodbury said.
Stuart Thain, Executive Vice President of Retail, Land & Investment at Colliers, said that in the last six to eight months brick-and-mortar stores have made a major resurgence. Fast food and Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) were saved by drive-thrus and many reportedly did more volume during the pandemic through drive-thrus than before with dine-in and drive-thrus combined.
“A normal QSR or fast food restaurant, if they have a drive-thru, will do 20-40% more business and will allow them to pay the rents being asked in our market,” Thain said.
Raising Canes had one of its biggest openings ever when it recently opened its first location in Utah in South Jordan.
However, land prices in Utah are making it tough for development of new retail projects in addition to the challenge of hiring staff – Thain cited a popular outdoor retailer and a national restaurant chain in Salt Lake County that both cited their staffing was only at 60% despite efforts to hire.
Both Woodbury and Thain asked cities to be fast and more flexible to help facilitate approvals and permits, especially for features that will be more necessary in the future like drive-thrus.