Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

City council proposal would pave the way for a taller Salt Lake skyline

Construction at 255 South State Street in downtown Salt Lake City, Feb. 12, 2022.
Brian Albers
Construction at 255 South State Street in downtown Salt Lake City, Feb. 12, 2022.

Salt Lake City’s skyline could be getting taller. That’s if the city council approves a proposal to increase building heights in the downtown business district.

Most notably, the proposal would boost the minimum height requirement for a new building from 100 to 200 feet, and the 375-foot maximum would be removed. Buildings over 200 feet would still be subject to additional review.

The catalyst was a private petition that was initiated in 2017 or 2018 in the [depot district] to amend a parcel that's existing in the [zoning district], and they were seeking additional height,” said Salt Lake City Planning Manager Kelsey Lindquist. “I think that really pushed the council as well as city planning staff to reevaluate some of our zoning districts associated with our downtown plan.”

Speaking at an April 4 work session on the proposal, council member Ana Valdemoros said the city is simply running out of room to build housing and other services.

“Looking into the future for Salt Lake City, we're constrained geographically,” she said. “That's the truth. We're going to have to build up at some point.”

As it is written now, the proposal would only apply to new construction and would also include pedestrian-friendly changes like wider sidewalks and larger building setbacks.

The challenge, Lindquist said, will be balancing the city’s growth while preserving its character.

“We're not just going to achieve skyscrapers without any sort of pedestrian engagement,” she said. “We do really want to keep that downtown identity that Salt Lake City has and that our residents love while increasing our density, the building height potentials and then adding to that downtown commercial feel.”

The council was largely enthusiastic about the changes and some even floated the idea of increasing the minimum sidewalk width.

“A 10 foot minimum sidewalk … and a large building, to me, it's not to human scale,” said council member Dan Dugan. “It should be a 20 foot sidewalk, not a 10 foot sidewalk … When I look at a 10 foot minimum sidewalk, that's what we're going to get. We're going to get 10 feet. If we put a 20 foot minimum sidewalk, we're going to get 20 feet because no one's going to go any more than the minimum.”

Another potential upside of the proposal is the ability to build more housing in an already strained market.

“I think this can address some of the housing crisis by going higher,” Lindquist said. “You can accommodate additional housing units, multifamily housing, condominiums. Those are allowed uses in the downtown plan area. And so I think we anticipate a continuation of that housing boom and hopefully accommodate additional stories and additional housing units.”

The city will hold a public hearing on April 18 and could vote on the measure in early May.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.