SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah history organization says it opposes a rezoning proposal that calls for the demolition of at least four historic homes within central Salt Lake City in favor of a new townhome complex.
In all, five homes would be demolished in the plan. All five homes are located in the area of 200 South and Lincoln Street (945 East) and currently zoned as single or two-family residential property.
Under the proposed plan, which was first unveiled in 2019 and is set to be voted on by the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday, the area would be rezoned from low-density to medium-density housing. That’s a property that can hold 15 to 30 units, according to city officials.
“The property owners are requesting these changes because they stated they’d like to have more flexibility in developing future multi-family housing with greater density and height that’s currently allowed,” said Brian Fullmer, the city’s constituent liaison and legislative project coordinator, in a city council work session last month.
The homes that would be torn down are located at 159 S. Lincoln Street, 949 E. 200 South, 955 E. 200 South, 959 E. 200 South and 963 E. 200 South. Kelsey Lindquist, the senior planner for Salt Lake City, said the five land parcels are 0.62 acres in size combined.
“The community master plan designated the subject properties as low-density residential to preserve the existing low-density residential uses and residential character of the area,” she told the city council in a Feb. 2 meeting. “The higher-density housing is encouraged in east downtown, downtown, Gateway and the transit station development zoning areas.”
Chiao-ih Hui, a representative for the group seeking the zoning amendments, said five homes are currently rented through a property management company. Their plan calls for 16 “energy-efficient” residential units in a townhome complex, which is seven more than what currently exists. She added that they are also considering demolishing the five existing homes and rebuilding the structures as five single homes if the land isn’t rezoned.
Some of the units could be set aside as affordable housing.
“We’re very excited about that,” she told the city council on Feb. 2. “We’re actually working with several institutions to try to figure it out and nail that down. Current affordable housing units in the area are all lofts or small apartments and we’re really excited that we could be able to offer some of the first, and possibly only, family-centric affordable housing in the area.”
The proposal caught the ire of historians and preservation groups, who say they have voiced concerns about the project for the past two years.
At least four of the homes date back to the 1890s, according to archaeologist Rachel Quist. She recently profiled all five of the buildings on her social media channels that are devoted to Salt Lake City history.
She wrote that the home located at 963 E. 200 South was constructed in 1894 and owned by a man named Nicholas Stathakos from 1908 to 1915. Stathakos was a businessman who also helped establish Utah’s first Greek Orthodox Church located in the western part of the city.
The homes located at 949 East, 955 East and 959 East along 200 South were also constructed in the 1890s. All three were constructed by a developer named Billy O’Meara between 1893 and 1897. Quist wrote that a developer purchased the homes in the 1970s and that’s about the time the front porches of the buildings were removed.
She added that the developer also once intended on demolishing them for a high-rise but that plan never came to fruition for unknown reasons.
Preservation Utah, the state’s largest preservation organization, voiced concerns about the looming vote last week. They oppose the plan and argue it would rip out too many of the remaining pieces from 19th-century Utah home construction.
“As a historic preservation organization, we value the history and character these buildings contribute to the fabric of Salt Lake City. At a national level, they are a part of the Salt Lake City East Side Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, making them notable but providing them with no protections.
“The proposed plan will destroy occupied historic properties within a National Historic District, increase rental rates, create more waste and damage the character and makeup of the current neighborhood,” the group added in a social media post.
Hui said the current rental rates of the homes were closer to market rates, which means they weren’t classified as affordable housing at the moment.
Meanwhile, the proposal also received a “unanimous negative recommendation” from Salt Lake City’s Historic Landmark Commission, Fullmer said. That vote came during a meeting over a year ago. Preservation Utah said the East Central Community Council and some residents have also opposed the project.
Lindquist explained that there was “no city regulation on protecting the buildings” since they were only recognized on the national register. Hui said floor plan changes they would like to make inside would make the four historic homes structurally unsound.
The Salt Lake Council is set to vote on the measure during a meeting Tuesday. The hearing begins at 7 p.m. People can participate by leaving public comments about the project during the meeting or view it on the city’s website.
More stories you may be interested in
Preservation group says it opposes plan to demolish 5 Salt Lake City homes for new complex /p>