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S. Jordan plans gateway

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It's an ambitious vision: An eastern gateway to South Jordan city with an imposing array of Class A office buildings, upscale motor hotels, auto dealerships, retail businesses and exclusive apartments.

It's also a dream with a hefty price tag, not only for developers but for the city officials who must find millions of dollars to fund roads and utilities there.In South Jordan, where past growth has been mostly residential, successful conversion of this vision into brick and mortar would have a profound long-range impact on the city's future tax base as well as its present image.

Which is why City Council members are hoping local residents also will embrace their view of the proposed "South Gate Project" as the best way to fund the dream.

The project - which would finance roads and other improvements with tax increment revenues - will be aired at a public hearing Oct. 20 at 8:15 p.m.

Residents also will review a budget proposing $18.6 million in spending over 15 years to provide $13.2 million for infrastructure needs and $4.5 million for low-income housing assistance.

Keith Snarr, city economic development director, said South Jordan officials view eastern gateway development as a key part of "The Other Downtown" concept that is being promoted in cooperation with Sandy.i

If approved, South Gate will be the largest redevelopment project to date in city history. But Mayor Dix McMullin doesn't think it will be a hard sell.

"This will give us an opportunity to recapture the tax money (generated by new development) and put it into infrastructure so we can enhance the economic development of that area," he said.

Here's how it would work:

The City Council would don its other hat as the South Jordan Redevelopment Agency and freeze property values in the project area, which covers 95.1 acres of land west of I-15 and south of 10600 South, at 1997 rates.

Then, for the next 15 years, the city could capture the tax increment - the difference between the assessed valuation of the property when it is fully developed and the "frozen" 1997 value. Instead of going to other taxing entities, the increment would flow to city coffers and provide the $18.6 million.

Most of that money would be used to fund the Jordan Gateway Road, a traffic signal, utility work, Sterling Drive and a 10600 South underpass for the Jordan River Parkway Trail. The remainder would fund the housing programs and administrative costs.

Snarr said the first portion of the $4.5 million set aside for housing won't be available until 2006. The council hasn't decided what form that will take, he said, but there are several options including rent subsidies, incentives for developing affordable housing or rehabilitation grants and loans.

South Gate is kind of a misnomer, because the project area lies at the south end of the city's eastern gateway - the section of South Jordan most visible from I-15.

Snarr said the area is bounded by 10600 South on the north and the Denver & Rio Grande railroad to the east. Sterling Village, an apartment complex that eventually will have 880 units, bounds the area to the south and west.

The eastern gateway's north end is developing rapidly with the construction of office buildings and business centers, and partial completion of Jordan Gateway Road at a cost of $4.8 million. Finishing the road from 11400 South to 11000 South, where Convergys (formerly Matrixx) has moved into a new telemarketing center, will cost $6.3 million more.

Snarr said the largest project expense will be $11.1 million to reimburse the city for the road.

Eventually, Jordan Gateway Road would connect to Lone Peak Drive in Draper and the Sandy Parkway to form the south end of a traffic artery that will eventually extend to Salt Lake City, running parallel to I-15.

What makes the South Gate Project attractive at this time, said Snarr, was passage of HB287 by the 1998 Utah Legislature.

That law provides new incentives for RDA projects where 20 percent of the funds are earmarked for housing assistance.

In addition to extending standard 12-year RDA projects to 15 years and doing away with blight studies on such projects, the new law also eliminates the need to get approval for tax increment freezes from other taxing entities.

Despite that provision, McMullin said South Jordan is in close communication with its local Taxing Agency Committee to ensure good public relations. "We want to keep them informed of everything we're doing," he said.

By approving the project before Oct. 31, Snarr said, the city can freeze 1997 property values in order to capture the tax increment from large projects like Sterling Village and Convergys.