WEST VALLEY CITY — Imagine a European-style intermodal hub for buses and trains that pick up passengers beneath a building with shops, offices and cafes built right over a busy street.
There are a lot of "ifs" between stops along the transit dream train, but today's fantasy of a "cosmopolitan" transit-oriented development could be tomorrow's reality, right over 2700 West just south of 3500 South.
"It's just very conceptual," says the city's light-rail coordinator, Jeff Hawker. An artist rendering puts the tentatively named Landmark Tower between the ailing Valley Fair Mall and City Hall.
But already the vision has elicited "intrigue" from The Boyer Co., which could end up being the developer for a mixed-use development that would combine office, commercial and residential space.
Land acquisition would be a snap since the building would occupy space above a city street — no real estate to purchase. The site is in a redevelopment agency project area, which could mean incentives for a developer.
And the Federal Transit Administration has earmarked $10 million for an intermodal hub that could be near the proposed building site.
So why not try to combine the two uses, transit and commerce?
"It makes a good project better," says Hal Johnson, Utah Transit Authority bus rapid transit project manager.
It'd be like if one guy in the neighborhood starts painting his house and others start to follow. "I think it could energize the mall there," Johnson says.
It's too early for City Councilman Russ Brooks to start beating the Landmark Tower drum, but he does agree that the area around the proposed building site needs help. "The only thing I can really say is we're trying to make that area of our community our downtown." The mall, he says, needs a face-lift.
Another option he has heard would be to bring light rail into a proposed upper-level parking area near the mall. Four City Council members in Washington, D.C., this week may tap legislators for TRAX dollars.
It's still at least five or six years away from a light-rail spur into the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. But West Valley City is planning to show federal money sources early on that different land-use options that would prove the viability of adding a particular spur.
Hawker says Landmark Tower is not an attempt to position his city ahead of a proposed Mid Jordan spur that dips further south into the valley. It's still the goal, he assures, to seek federal funds for the simultaneous building of the two lines, which could cost about $500 million. The north/south Sandy line came in at $300 million.
Clinging to hopes of Hogle Zoo relocating here and bringing a TRAX stop with it, Hawker says that a Landmark Tower intermodal hub, along with stops serving the E Center, City Hall and Decker Lake Business Park, should make for an "interesting" line to those pulling the strings. Already the city sends a large percentage of commuters to the University of Utah hospital and campus every day.
But to make a place like Landmark Tower work, Hawker says, an atmosphere in the valley where office space supply outweighs demand has to change.