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The City Journals

Brick by brick, parks plan comes together

May 24, 2018 01:17PM ● By Holly Vasic

The home on the west side of Fitts Park that will be the location of the entrance to the new Fitt's Park bike path. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected] 

South Salt Lake is a unique city with a park’s plan to match. This was discussed at the April 11 city council’s regular work meeting, with major focuses on Fitts Park and a new Columbus Center park.  Fitts Park is riding into the future and the Columbus Center will have a place for kids to be outside, but it will mean tearing down some houses.

Sharen Hauri is South Salt Lake City’s Urban Design Director who needs to make the hard choices about sacrificing quaint old homes for the sake of outdoor recreational space. The home next door to the Columbus Center has been assigned for just that. “Our plan for this is an all-abilities playground,” Hauri said. Currently, the grass field behind the home is being used for a flag football and soccer field. Yet, Hauri admits, “It’s a really cool house, I feel pretty guilty tearing it down.” Hauri says she is at least planning on recycling the bricks but there may be more to this than she realizes.

At the other end of Fitts Park, just off 300 East, which Hauri called west Fitts Park, sits a red brick home, built decades before with white trim, surrounded by mature trees. “It’s terrible, I’m tearing down cute homes,” Hauri said but added, “That’s a trail head both into the park and onto Millcreek trail head.” The land is the perfect spot to enter into the park from 300 East for the new bike course which will be breaking ground in the fall.

John Sargent loves old homes and has made it his life’s work to restore them as a homeowner and business owner in the Avenues. His contracting business, Old House Care LLC, specializes in working with historic structures.

Sargent said when it comes to old houses, it’s a niche market. “We have the American cult of the new, you know?” He has realized most people don’t care. The catch-22 is when it is necessary to remove a home, for whatever reason such as a park, salvaging valuable material can be tricky business. Sargent said that bricks on homes, like the one next to the Columbus Center, which Hauri plans to have salvaged, are definitely of value, especially considering, according to Zillow, the home was built in the early 1920s.

“They’re not replaceable,” he said. “When I go to do a job, we have a hard time finding a source for brick, so they definitely have value, they're definitely worth salvaging.”

The bigger problem is holding onto the bricks until a contractor, like Sargent, needs them. Collecting and storing the bricks and being able to be profitable is a balancing act, according to Sargent. “I use them but I can't save them,” he said, noting space to store them is key.

Sargent has lived in Utah for about 35 years. “I fell in love with the old houses and old neighborhoods in Salt Lake. I grew up on the West Coast in the suburbs, not in old neighborhoods.” Sargent would be eager to get his hands on some of the materials from the houses South Salt Lake is needing to tear down.