It’s a historic time to be living in Salt Lake City and we all recognize that the economy is undergoing a profound transformation with COVID-19. Economic growth had been on an upward trajectory in the Capital City until the ‘great pause’ but we are optimistic that our economy will be back on track soon. May 4th through 9th is Economic Development Week across the United States, and around the world. Let’s take that pause, learn, and appreciate the efforts that go into building our economy.
Today we’re featuring the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA).
Most are familiar with the general term “redevelopment” describing the action or process of developing something again or differently. Some may even think of redevelopment in more city-specific terms, understanding it as the rehabilitation or new construction of buildings in an urban area. But for many people, the concept of an entire government agency devoted to redevelopment might be a bit unfamiliar. Such an entity – a “redevelopment agency” – Salt Lake City’s specifically, is a type of tool that strategically focuses on a particular area of a municipality that is experiencing disinvestment or neglect.
Read on to learn about the latest accomplishments:
The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) works to revitalize Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods and business districts to improve livability, spark economic growth and foster authentic communities. It serves as a catalyst for strategic development projects that enhance the City’s housing opportunities, commercial vitality and public spaces.
The RDA fosters a set of core values that collectively support the revitalization of Salt Lake City’s communities:
- ECONOMIC GROWTH / Act as a responsible steward of public funds, taking a long-term view of investment, return and property values.
- COMMUNITY IMPACT / Prioritize projects and programs that demonstrate commitment to improving equity and quality of life for residents and businesses in Salt Lake City.
- NEIGHBORHOOD VIBRANCY / Cultivate distinct and livable built environments that are contextually sensitive, resilient, connected and sustainable.
Under the Utah Code Title 17C Community Reinvestment Agencies Act, the RDA creates and administers community reinvestment areas, also known as “project areas,” working with community councils, property owners, neighborhood residents and businesses to learn how they would like to see their communities improved. Under 17C, the RDA is also authorized to undertake affordable housing projects citywide, in addition to those located within project areas.
RDA staff is currently working on more than 80 community reinvestment projects that include a wide range of elements,including residential, commercial, historic reservation, public art, environmental, infrastructure, economic development and placemaking. To follow are updates on some of the RDA’s key projects that have experienced substantial progress over the past fiscal year.
Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing Projects
Facilitating in the development of residential projects that are affordable to a wide breadth of Salt Lake City residents has long been an RDA function. Over the past three years, the RDA has committed approximately $44 million to housing funds and projects, with over $40 million supporting projects containing affordable housing units. Since July 2016, the RDA has supported the planning and creation of 1,950 units, of which 933 qualify as affordable.
The RDA’s first major commercial project was the 1974 creation of American Plaza on downtown’s Block 58. Since then, the RDA has participated in the construction and historic renovation of many more buildings, providing over $53 million in commercial loans. This year, several of the RDA’s current commercial projects reached varying milestones.
Historic Rehabilitation + Adaptive Reuse Projects
Over the years, the RDA has facilitated the restoration and renovation of many of Downtown’s historic multi-story buildings, including the Boston, Brooks Arcade, Lollin & Karrick, Felt and Clift Buildings. The rehabilitation of single-family historic homes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood has also been a focus of the RDA, with the completion of such a project commencing in the past year.
Comprising an increasing percentage of the RDA’s work is the assistance of developers and small businesses in the adaptive reuse of industrial buildings that while are not historic, are still structurally sound and in need of improvements to meet current building and fire codes. By providing loans to encourage the reuse and revitalization of warehouse and industrial buildings, the RDA is facilitating transformative development projects that dually bring new life to a neighborhood, while preserving its original character.
Market-Rate Residential Projects
To support a healthy housing market that offers Salt Lake City residents a mix of options, the RDA not only participates in residential projects that are available to low- and fixedincome residents, but also the development of units that are rented and/or sold at market rates. Since 1969, the RDA has participated in the development of nearly 4,000 market-rate housing units throughout the City.
Public Art Projects
Supporting arts and culture in Salt Lake City has always been a function of the RDA. Whether assisting with the acquisition of a historic venue like the Capitol Theatre, building infrastructure to support pedestrian traffic and walkability to arts venues (Rose Wagner Theater, Abravenal Hall, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art), or funding the creation of public art, the RDA is contributing to the City’s creative culture through a variety of ways.
50 Years Of Reinvesting, Revitalizing, and Reconnecting
This past year, the RDA celebrated its 50th anniversary. On June 10, 1969 Salt Lake City’s Board of Commissioners (now City Council), passed a resolution establishing the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City with the purpose of its work stimulating economic growth and revitalizing Downtown. Since then, the RDA has completed hundreds of redevelopment projects and invested over $530 million back into
Salt Lake City communities. Details of the RDA’s beginnings, a complete project list, decade-by-decade highlights, and case studies of the RDA’s most influential projects were captured here.