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The City Journals

City has ideas for Fairmont Park tennis courts, but no plan yet

Aug 22, 2019 04:56PM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

One of the possibilities for the space is a remodel and possible expansion of the Sugar House Boys & Girls Club, located next to the courts. (Jenniffer Wardell/City Journals)

By Jenniffer Wardell | [email protected]

City officials have a few ideas about what to do with the Fairmont Park tennis courts. The chance for any of those ideas to become reality, however, is still a long way off.

The Salt Lake City Department of Community and Neighborhoods completed a survey this past July asking residents what they would like to see happen to the dilapidated tennis courts. The survey offered four possibilities for the site—a community garden, medium-density housing, recreational courts or redevelopment for the Boys & Girls Club. The results were then sent to the mayor's office to be analyzed. 

Unfortunately, that's as far as they'll get for the immediate future. 

"There is no timeline (for the project) because there is no determined project yet," said Matthew Rojas, director of communications for Salt Lake. "This is a preliminary step to help guide what the best use of the space is."

The results will be released once the team compiling them issues a report to the mayor and council. Rojas said he doesn't know when that will happen, estimating that the earliest possible date might be the end of August. 

"It's a two-person team that does all the engagement," he said. "So it depends on what else is on their plates."

The survey focused on the five tennis courts attached to Fairmont Park, which have been falling into disrepair for more than two decades. Though the rest of the park has seen improvements over the last several years, the courts remain essentially unusable space.

"The general feeling (among survey respondents) was that they want to see something happen with this property," said Elizabeth Buehler, a civic engagement manager for the city. She helped oversee the survey, which was conducted online and in person at various Sugar House events. 

Community gardens

If the city eventually turns the space into gardens, it wouldn’t be the first time. The courts were used as a community garden from 2011 to 2014, where they fell victim to infighting and controversy over water use. Though the property was hooked up to the city's water supply in 2014, the system was never turned on. 

Wasatch Community Gardens took over the management of the gardens in 2014, later overseeing the shutdown. Currently, Wasatch is working to get a community garden space set up at Sugar House Park. Current plans are to have the space open by 2020. 

Missing middle housing

This isn’t the first time the city has considered turning the area into housing, with the courts nearly becoming townhomes in 2013. The city considered rezoning the area as early as 2011, in conjunction with the Sugar House streetcar project. The courts were located just south of one of the proposed stations, and the city’s planning commission recommended townhomes as the best use of the property. 

The recommendation made it to the Salt Lake City Council by July 2013, which started the process of changing the property’s current open space zoning designation. According to the site history of the property posted on the Salt Lake Community and Neighborhoods website, this is where the plan ran into a snag. 

“A local developer inappropriately represented to the community that the city was going to approve a five-story, high-density residential building on the site,” reads the statement. “As word of high-density development got out to the community and as public engagement ensued to remove the property from open space, residents became outspoken and there was considerable community push back to the city’s plan for housing. Mayor (Ralph) Becker requested the open space removal and re-zone applications be withdrawn.”   

The current plan, referred to as “missing middle” housing, returns to the original idea of medium-density townhomes. Other possibilities include duplexes, fourplexes, or smaller bungalow homes arranged around a central courtyard area. 

Other possibilities

Since Fairmont Park already has pickleball courts, recreational court possibilities for the space include basketball, Futsal, Bike Polo, or keeping them as tennis courts. The city is also considering using the property to remodel the Sugar House Boys & Girls Club, located next door. The club rents their property from the city and has a lease until 2027.

Though she's not involved in compiling the results, Buehler said that the public seemed at least somewhat interested in all the possibilities. 

"There was no clear winner," she said. "But generally everyone recognized (the space) as a community asset."