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"We Call It Pioneer Chic:" St. George Mayor Talks Growth, Big Projects In State Of The City Address

The city of St. George is shown from above. The white temple stands above the tree-lined streets.
Kelsie Moore
RadioWest Films
The population of Washington County grew by more than 500% between 1980 and 2017 and is projected to surpass half a million by 2065.

ST. GEORGE — The new, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic for this fast-growing city in 2020 is “pioneer chic.”

That’s how Mayor Jon Pike described the look of the large apartment complex and hotel nearing completion in the heart of St. George.

He made the light-hearted comment during his State of the City address on Wednesday afternoon, which largely focused on growth and big projects — either already in-progress or soon-to come — in Southwest Utah’s biggest city.

Pike cheered on the progress made towards building RiverWalk Village, a 55-unit affordable apartment complex that is the city’s premier effort to address a shortage of moderately-priced housing.

He also celebrated the fact that the number of building permits requested in the city’s townhomes, condos and apartments category has more than doubled in the last two years: from 152 permits in 2017 to 318 in 2019.

He said he hopes both will help restore balance to a housing market where over half the city’s renters are now considered “cost burdened.” That’s a term used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to describe households that expend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent. 

To keep pace with growth, the city will also be expanding its services, Pike said, and announced that all rides on St. George’s public transit system, SunTran, will be free from March through May. 

“We want people to ride the bus. Many people probably haven’t before and so we want them to try it,” he said, adding that the city will be expanding the service to other parts of the county in the coming years. 

Another expansion on the way is “Tech Ridge.”

It’s an initiative to convert the city’s former ridge-top airport into a technology center, complete with offices, housing complexes and public parks.

The site is located next to downtown on the west side of Shadow Mountain and is already home to Dixie Technical College and software companies Printer Logic and Busy, Busy. 

“The point of ‘Tech Ridge’ is to build a tech ecosystem to recruit talent into the city and also, more importantly, to create a space where our local talent can stay here,” said Shirlayne Quayle, the director of Economic Development and Housing for St. George, after the speech.

Quayle said the city’s interest in the technology industry stems from its adaptability and high-paying jobs.

She added that the higher wages would be welcome in Washington County where wage growth has lagged behind the state average over the past four decades.

Looking ahead, Pike said 2020 will bring long-awaited decisions on two major infrastructure projects in the area. 

The first is the Lake Powell Pipeline, which would pump water from Lake Powell to Southwest Utah. The second is the Northern Corridor highway, which would cut through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area to ease future traffic in St. George.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Land Management are in the process of drafting environmental impact statements for each project.

In other big news, Pike announced that St. George will host the World Championship Ironman 70.3, or half-Ironman, in 2021.

The event is expected to bring 7,000 athletes and 25,000 visitors to the city.

David is a reporter and producer working on Sent Away, an investigative podcast series from KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports.
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