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The City Journals

Goodbye Reams, hello town center at Hillside Plaza

Mar 28, 2022 09:51PM ● By Cassie Goff

A town center, created by mixed-use developers, may be the future for Hillside Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Wright Development Group)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

After a long-standing neighborhood grocery store closed its doors during the height of the pandemic, Cottonwood Heights residents have been concerned and curious about what will happen to the mostly deserted 40,000 square feet of commercial space along Fort Union Boulevard. Wright Development Group is currently under contract to purchase the property of Hillside Plaza (approximately 2378 Fort Union Blvd.).  

On Feb. 15, Project Manager for Wright Development Group Logan Johnson presented to the Cottonwood Heights City Council their current plans for redeveloping the site. Johnson emphasized that the plan was extremely preliminary and they were looking for feedback from the city council to ensure they were on the right track with their vision. The sellers of the property were in the audience for this presentation.

Initially, the Wright Development Group had intentions of keeping the currently-standing grocery store building. They met with a number of grocers within the area, including Harmons and Associated Foods, to see if they would be interested in occupying the space. However, the proximity to Dan’s makes the market for a grocery store difficult.

“We wanted to see if we could get anyone in there but Hillside Plaza has been a struggle for a while. We are not giving up on a grocer but it’s no longer the big driver for the layout,” Johnson explained.

In December, the Wright Development Group held a neighborhood meeting to discuss potential layouts for development. Attendees were then asked to complete an online survey. Johnson did note that the survey was not representative of all Cottonwood Heights residents, but they wanted to gather feedback tailored to the residents who will be most impacted (residents who share the border within 300 feet).

“There were more attendees than I think we have ever had,” said Johnson, sharing that there were approximately 70 attendees including residents, Cottonwood Heights City councilmembers, and Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission members.

Out of 45 respondents, most did not want any buildings taller than the currently-existing Walgreens and requested that any taller buildings to be closer to that Walgreens (2330 Fort Union Blvd.) 

Overall, survey data reported “overwhelming support for a town center,” Johnson said. “Even though survey respondents were split on horizontal or vertical mixed-use.”

The currently drafted development envisioned such a town center. It includes a plaza space with a corridor down the middle of the development site to use as hybrid space. The hope is to have restaurants, retail shopping, and a little office space in addition to some potential upscale apartments. The plaza space is imagined to be a pedestrian-friendly area that can switch into festival mode.

“Our goal was to establish an environment to attract local tenants,” Johnson said. “We wanted to design a space that works well for farmers markets and other types of festivals. The hybrid space can change the atmosphere.”  

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Weichers said, “I think a destination type retail or restaurant could really help to fill those spots as well.”

The town center would be multimodal transportation friendly as auto, pedestrian, and bike traffic have been incorporated together. Sidewalks are currently planned to be between 10 and 15 feet in front of the buildings.

“It’s a more healthy option,” Johnson said.

Currently, there is a bus stop along the neighboring road. “We would be excited to further incorporate the bus stop with pedestrian access into the plaza space,” Johnson said.

Wright Development Group tried to incorporate as much feedback as possible from the survey data and public meeting. They moved building mass as far from the surrounding neighborhoods as possible, increased setbacks, and plan to add bike lanes throughout the site.

Johnson said there could be a five-level parking structure, away from the street. Three stories would be underground so “to surrounding neighbors it would feel like one to one and a half stories.”

City Manager Tim Tingey mentioned how “the streetscape will be key—helping residents to understand the height implications, what it will look and feel like.”

“We would commit to the city to address the plaza in another direction if Walgreens can be redeveloped. There will be nothing over four stories or over 50 feet. The highest building will be by Walgreens,” Johnson said.

“This plan for a town center represents a good fit after talking with residents and looking at city code,” Johnson said.

The Wright Development Group began as commercial developers. “In about 2008, we transitioned into some housing and residential development. We are excited to come into this arena as a mixed-use developer,” Johnson said.