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Restarting plans for a city center

Apr 03, 2022 08:04PM ● By Erin Dixon

West Jordan leaders have explored many city center options over the past two decades. (Image/Erin Dixon)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Last fall, the City Journal wrote an article about a new “downtown” plan.

Economic Development Director Chris Pengra presented a plan to the council that has remained untouched. What happened?

“[The council wasn’t] very happy with the plan,” Communication Director Tauni Barker said. “Chris has asked them for directions on what they’d like to see. In order to move forward with a new plan, the administration needs more direction.”

Anything concrete will be months down the road. First, the city needs to comply with new legislation, House Bill 462, that requires cities to make a “transit area plan.” Areas with transit stations, this plot of land sits right next to a TRAX station, must have a new plan for the immediate quarter-mile radius.

“That station area plan will come before we embark on a new economic development plan for that area,” Barker said. “We’re at least a year out from a new plan.”

This March, the council spearheaded a discussion about the vision and wants from each council member.

Council Chair Kayleen Whitelock urged fellow council members to “think big,” to make a wish list that would benefit not only current but future residents.

The ideas discussed were ideas only, and nothing is yet set in stone.

“These components are just what we’re going to give to staff that they can share with developers,” Whitelock said in the meeting.

The most commonly used word to describe the desires in the discussion was “unique.” Other ideas included a work and play area, where people didn’t need a car to go from work to home. Hotels, conference centers, space for art festivals and local businesses were also thrown onto the idea pile.

Councilmember Chris McConnehey has held the District 1 seat since 2012. This is at least the fourth time a city center/downtown project has been spearheaded in that time.

“My vision is getting with the folks who have a property there who have an interest and forming a group for collaboration,” McConnehey said. “Otherwise, I see us doing iteration No. 9 of another dream that’s got no chance.” (The exact number of previous plans is unknown.)

City Planner Scott Langford is hopeful about the project, despite so many failed attempts in the past.

“It really has the potential to put West Jordan on the map,” Langford said to the council. “All the effort and the past effort over the years has made a difference. The existing ordinances in place have helped. It gives a lot of variety and flexibility.”