On a site that for more than 70 years housed thousands of men and women in the custody and care of the Utah Department of Corrections, the innovative mixed-use development The Point has reached “a major milestone.”
On Nov. 8, the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority board approved the Phase I development agreement with Innovation Point Partners.
State leaders and private developers envision a development that will “change lives,” said Alan Matheson, executive director of Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, in a recent meeting with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards.
Matheson said The Point is a state project owned by the people of the state of Utah so “we’ve got an obligation ... to make it more than a development, to make it a place that’s going to create opportunities for the generations that are going to follow.”
On Monday, the state of Utah and private development team Innovation Point Partners inked the agreement for Phase I development of The Point on 600 acres of state-owned land at the site of the former state prison. The first phase could take 15 years to complete.
“This is a major milestone that represents the path from lots of planning and lots of groundwork to starting to do the actual development,” Matheson said.
Innovation Point Partners is led by Dallas-based Lincoln Property Company, one of the largest private real estate firms in the United States, and local partners, Colmena Group and Wadsworth Development Group.
The development calls for a mix of commercial real estate, retail, entertainment, a wide array of housing options, hotels, educational facilities and an extensive “river to range” corridor that will link the community to the Jordan River Parkway and the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. It is surrounded by more than 20,000 acres of undeveloped land in area communities.
The development is intended to be walkable or accessible by bikes or e-bikes, served by FrontRunner and rapid transit lines and within the community itself, automated circulators that would transport people along designated routes.
The Point is situated between Utah’s most populous counties, Salt Lake and Utah, and is in the heart of the state’s fast-growing technology sector.
It is anticipated that The Point will feature an iconic feature such as Seattle’s Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, or Cloud Gate, Chicago’s famed public art installation colloquially known as “The Bean,” which anchors its downtown Millennium Park.
A recent proposal to the state land authority board pitched a 300-foot “Statue of Responsibility” for the site as a companion to the Statue of Liberty but no one has green-lighted the plan.
Nor is anyone revealing whether The Point could become a home to a professional sports venue but there is plenty of speculation as well-connected and well-heeled Utahns seek to land National Hockey League and Major League Baseball teams in the Beehive State. Meanwhile, the Delta Center would be nearly 50 years old when the development’s first phase comes to fruition.
As for the existing plans, state officials and development partners are thinking big, Matheson said.
“It is a great development project and if it turns out to be just a development project, even a great development project, I’m going to be disappointed. I think many of us will,” he said.
Rather, The Point should be “a place that’s going to create opportunities for the generations that are going to follow: People having careers here that maybe they couldn’t have had before so they don’t have to leave the state. creating solutions to some of the growth challenges we face with transportation, water use, air quality, etc. So this is a public project designed to do more than just make money or house buildings, but to change lives,” Matheson said.
Plans call for an “innovation center” that will focus on research and development and create thousands of good paying jobs. Workers would have the option of living minutes away in a wide variety of housing choices and in a community that offers upscale shopping and entertainment opportunities.
Former state Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, co-chairman of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority board, said the development agreement takes into account performance requirements, energy savings, a world-class mass transit infrastructure and air quality and other quality to life issues to ensure The Point is “not just for people to come and work but a place for our citizens to come and actually partake in this is what’s going to be an exciting environment.”
Snow, who has worked with real estate developers throughout his legal career, noted, “I’ve never seen a transaction this complex, taking in account so many different dimensions.”
Snow, sponsor of the 2018 legislation that created the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, said from the outset the development “was not intended ... to be a kind of development that was motivated by profit, by the bottom line. It was motivated to try to accommodate the interests of all citizens of our state. In some respects, that’s what created such a long negotiation period as we strove with these partners to do it right, to get it right to fulfill our obligation under the legislation for the people of state.”
Visioning work for redevelopment of the former prison site tracks back to 2014 when the state legislature formed the Point of the Mountain Development Commission. A year later, the state identified a new site for the prison in Salt Lake City and construction began in 2016. The $1 billion, 1.3 million square foot facility opened in July 2022 following the transfer of over 2,400 incarcerated individuals from the Draper prison.
Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers appropriated $108 million for “backbone infrastructure” needed to begin the development of The Point such as moving an electrical substation and electrical and gas lines, creating the River to Range parkway and trail, Central Park, and installing utilities.
Another $50 million in one-time funding was appropriated for Convergence Hall, which will house the Innovation District’s work, including coworking space, classrooms, offices for universities, and K-12 opportunities, according to legislative documents.
While many aspects of the development will be state-of-the-art, the development will include a nod to the history of the site by preserving the Utah State Prison chapel, which was completed in 1961. The Land Authority Board voted in 2022 to preserve the chapel.
“It was intentionally preserved to ensure that we can remember that legacy, that one, this was a site that used to be a prison, but also to maintain the historic nature of that building,” said Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, who is co-chairman of the land authority.
“This is a building that was built by the prisoners. It was built using funds that were collected by the community in order to have a place of worship for those prisoners and so we thought that keeping that building intact and as part of the overall plan was really something that was important,” said Teuscher.