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Gateway approval imminent
Boyer has spent the past year preparing for vast project

The grand old dame is tired. Many of her windows are broken and boarded up. Her masonry is cracked and stained. Her structure is seismically unstable.

But instead of being allowed to go gentle into that good night, the Union Pacific Depot on 400 West and South Temple is due for resurrection as part of the Boyer Co.'s proposed development on 26 acres just west of the depot, from North Temple to 200 South and 400 West to 500 West.Boyer has spent more than a year buying property from Union Pacific, making plans, getting various city approvals, finalizing designs and carrying out the myriad other preparations necessary to go forward with the vast mixed-use project, and after lo these many months, the goal is in sight.

The city Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on much of the project's final design Thursday, as well as overall site approval. Having already approved the project in concept last fall, the panel is likely to OKit.

"This is the final final," said Boyer special projects manager Stephen Caine.

Assuming approval goes through, Caine said Boyer will start excavation and site preparation after the Utah Arts Festival takes place later this month (the festival uses much of the ground for a staging area).

Planning commissioners wanted more detail on the architecture and building materials, such as EIFS (exterior insulated finish system), Boyer is planning on using in its office, residential, hotel and cultural buildings. Resembling stucco, the material "is sometimes done so it looks cheap, but it also can look really nice," said city planner Doug Dansie.

The exterior of the fancy new Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas was done almost exclusively with EIFS.

The fate of the depot itself is still up in the air. The state owns the building and is negotiating with the city and Boyer to transfer title. If a deal isn't reached by the end of this year, Boyer has an option to scrap the development.

But that's not likely to happen.

"I think it's in everybody's interest to get a decision made," said David Winder, executive director of the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development. "Everybody feels like it can be a win-win situation."

Renovation won't be cheap. Estimated cost: $12 million to $15 million.

City officials are counting on The Gateway, the name the Boyer Co. has given the project, to be the centerpiece for general rehabilitation of the eponymous Gateway area, a 650-acre tract of land from North Temple to 900 South and 300 West to I-15.

And they're putting their money where their mouth is. The city's Redevelopment Agency has committed to pour up to $16.5 million in tax increment assistance to the Boyer project, and the city and city municipal building authority has committed $12.7 million in further infrastructure improvements.

"The things we're doing there, there's a payback" in image and increased property taxes, City Councilman Carlton Christensen said.

One thing city officials are particularly excited about is the "park blocks" planned for 500 West, running from North Temple to 400 South. Inspired by similar streets in Portland and Boston, the park blocks comprise basically a great big median (100 feet wide) with one-way streets on either side.

Currently, even a wide median in the city now approaches only 30 feet. The parks will be big enough to hold fairs on.

"500 West will be the showpiece," said RDA Executive Director Alice Steiner. "In both cases (Portland and Boston), park blocks have served as a real focus for a housing-based neighborhood."

500 West will run on the west side of the Boyer project, where the developer plans to put housing units. Boyer will transfer 60 feet of land to accommodate the wider street. Some of the businesses on the other side have approached the city with housing proposals as well.

Boyer plans completion of the project in fall 2001.