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Salt Lake County Regional Development News

Salt Lake County, U of U, and UTA to Track Air Quality Through Mobile Monitors on Electric Buses


July 16, 2021

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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.

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“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.

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“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. 


Retail Commercial Real Estate in Salt Lake County: Is it Rebounding? And What are the Trends?


June 28, 2021

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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. 


Data: More Than 12,000 Salt Lake County Residents Receive $17M in COVID-19 Rental Assistance since March 2021


June 17, 2021

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Data collected and analyzed from Utah’s joint Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) now shows that $17.14 million of federal ERAP funds have been paid out in Salt Lake County, helping 12,190 Salt Lake County residents since March 2021.

Three months into the rental assistance program, Salt Lake County data shows women are applying for rental assistance at a higher rate than men. Approximately 60% of applicants are women, and the largest portion are women unemployed for more than 90 days. 

“The demand for rental assistance funds this spring has exceeded our expectations,” said Michael Gallegos, Director of Salt Lake County Housing & Community Development. “While we’re ahead of where we thought we would be, there are still plenty of funds available, and we encourage residents to continue to apply, especially as we know the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium will end after June 30.”

While a number of Salt Lake County residents have bounced back from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, there are still significant efforts underway to help residents facing ongoing housing insecurity. ERAP recipient race demographics match or exceed County demographics, showing that rental assistance funds are getting into traditionally underserved populations.

“We know there are geographic areas of higher need, and diverse populations that may require support to apply,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “We are addressing those needs as they’re identified by the community and data. We are also utilizing organizations in our outreach grant program to assist disproportionately impacted individuals in tapping into this critical resource to avoid eviction.”

Salt Lake County is releasing ERAP data to the public, showing the total amounts paid out since the program began, density and location of rental assistance paid by zip code in Salt Lake County, and rent relief payouts by municipality. This information is available on a new, public dashboard at https://slco.org/slcomunidata on Tab #7. Some interesting data points include:

  • 55% of rental assistance provided thus far in Salt Lake County has been applied for by landlords on behalf of their tenants
  • 62% of all rental assistance funds in Utah are being paid out to Salt Lake County residents
  • All areas of Salt Lake County have seen requests for assistance
  • Salt Lake City, the largest city with the highest rate of renters, has seen the highest number of requests; nearly $6 million in rental assistance has been paid out to residents in Salt Lake City

Rental assistance funds are available to those who need and qualify for the remainder of 2021. Residents can apply at https://rentrelief.utah.gov. If an individual needs free assistance with the application, they can find a list of those ready to support them best suited to their needs or language at https://slco.org/covid-19/rental-assistance/.