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Waverly Station: Residents of new South Salt Lake development see it as wave of the future

SOUTH SALT LAKE — An aging corner of this blue-collar city has become a thriving community of young professionals and upstart businesses, all without the help of taxpayer dollars.

Waverly Station, located near 3700 South on West Temple, stands in cheery contrast to the aging office buildings and acres of cracked concrete that surround it.

The three-story townhome development in tones of bright red, green and yellow is kitty-corner from Harmony Park, where drug deals and transients can be seen on a regular basis. It's just down the street from multiple manufacturers and service organizations such as Centro de la Familia de Utah.

"I was a little concerned when we first moved in," said new mom Jordan Page. "However, we've never felt unsafe being home. I think that's because of the community, how big and new it is."

BYU graduate Brandt Page and his wife, Jordan, were some of the first residents of Waverly Station, a Hamlet Homes project.

Now, Brandt Page has started Launch Sales and Marketing to connect businesses to one another. Luckily, his offices are located within a few hundred yards of his town home.

It's all within minutes of the freeway and a Utah Transit Authority TRAX station.

While the average family income in South Salt Lake is only $39,800, most residents of Waverly Station are doctors, attorneys and people with higher degrees in fields such as business and accounting. The project is aimed at young professionals who may be first-time homebuyers, said Prudential Realtor Sylvia Giles.

Newlyweds Eric and Bethany Crawford looked at scores of other properties before buying in South Salt Lake, they said. The Crawfords were wary of crime, having had vehicles stolen in the Salt Lake City Avenues neighborhood four times.

"It's the central point of our lives," Eric Crawford said of his new digs. "It's not just the diversity of the community but how tight-knit it is."

Bethany Crawford added that the whole neighborhood recently came over for a salad party.

"We have a lot of hope for the area. It has nowhere to go but up," she said. "For some reason, it attracts awesome people."

The neighbors also meet for "Bachelor parties" to watch the reality TV show, and they support each other with baby-sitting and church gatherings.

South Salt Lake community development director Larry Gardner called Waverly Station the strongest project of its kind in the city. Before being purchased by Hamlet Homes, the blighted land was used for pipe storage, Gardner said.

City Council Chairman Casey Fitts also sang its praises but said there is room in the city for single-family homes with yards. However, such homes built with city funding have yet to sell, despite major slashes in price.

The city also has put time and money on the line for the Market Station development, which would put luxury condos on Main Street near 2100 South. Due to financial difficulties, however, developer Steve Aste pulled out of the project last year.

The efforts are signs of elected officials' hopes to boost home ownership in the city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 40 percent of homes in South Salt Lake are owner-occupied.

The situation has left Waverly Station residents feeling ignored.

"I don't think South Salt Lake is necessarily understanding the changes that are happening," said 33-year-old Andrew Rail. "Do you know what's going on over here? Do you know who's over here? They might be overlooking the younger demographic."

Rail, who holds a master's degree in public administration, applied to fill the seat of Shane Siwik after the 10-year councilman resigned last year. But in a unanimous vote, other City Council members chose instead to seat retired classic car enthusiast Irvin Jones.

Nevertheless, Rail is pushing forward with his company SinAm Aviation that lines Chinese students up with American Schools. Like Page, he works from the Waverly Station area.

"People here have invested hundreds of thousands into their homes, and that says a lot about roots," he said. "It's time to really brighten this area up."