The site under consideration for a future Salt Lake City tiny home village to house over 400 of the chronically homeless has been unveiled.

It’s in west-side Salt Lake City — right next to an auto junkyard.

But its proponents say if it’s approved, the tiny home village could be designed in a way that will feel like “its own little world” in a “lush resort area” — not an industrial expanse.

The 45.13-acre, Salt Lake City-owned, empty parcel at 1850 W. Indiana Ave. was selected by the future tiny home village’s operator, The Other Side Academy, and its land search committee, which was tasked with evaluating properties within Salt Lake City boundaries that were 30 or more acres, big enough to house the village and any future expansion, according to a Salt Lake City news release issued Friday.

Salt Lake City officials are now slated to consider a zoning request from The Other Side Academy to rezone the parcel, currently zoned as “public lands,” to a “formed based district,” which would pave the way for the development of the master planned tiny home village named The Other Side Village.

The property has an assessed value of over $7.9 million, according to the Salt Lake County Assessor’s website. It’s located in an industrial area in west-side Salt Lake City, directly east of I-215.  

If Salt Lake City officials approve, the tiny home village’s eastern neighbor would be Tear A Part Auto Recycling and its over 10-acre vehicle salvage yard.

Property at 1850 W. Indiana Avenue on Friday, July 30, 2021. Salt Lake City is considering a zoning amendment request by The Other Side Academy to locate its proposed tiny home project, The Other Side Village, on the site. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It’s going to be a ‘gem’

Yes, the property is next to a junkyard. But Joseph Grenny, chairman of the board for The Other Side Academy and The Other Side Village, said the property needs to be judged “when you can see what we’re going to build, not what it’s proximate to.”

“Within that 45 acres, we’ll be able to set that within this incredible green scape,” Grenny said, likening it to a golf course in the desert areas of St. George in southern Utah. “Almost anybody that’s gone to (St. George), you’re driving up to a golf course resort there, you might think, ‘Gosh this is hideous and barren,’ but once you drop into the middle of it you see what somebody who has imagination and capability can create. You feel like you’re in a lush resort area.”

The size of the parcel, Grenny said, “gives us the opportunity to embed our community within a green scape kind of outside that will help it to feel like our own place. Once you see the master plan (slated to be released in the next 10 days), I think you’ll see that we’ll make tremendous use of that 45 acres so that it will feel like its own little world.”

While some may question why city officials would choose to site the village on the city’s west side, an area that’s long been considered one that lacks opportunity and resources, Grenny said the search committee looked citywide — east, west, north and south, — for a big enough parcel. “And the truth is, 30 acre parcels are hard to come by.”

“So this isn’t really about east versus west,” he said. “This is about what’s available, but more importantly than that ... if communities around Salt Lake City understood the assets that would be coming to their area, there would be a competition for this.”

If approved, the west-side tiny home village would be a “tremendous lift and an asset to the west-side community,” Grenny said.

The tiny home village isn’t envisioned to just provide long-term housing for the chronically unsheltered, Grenny said. It would also have a “world-class performing arts center, a wonderful grocery store. It’ll be a farmers market. It’s going to have a salon and barbershop. It will have an Airbnb.”

So neighboring communities’ “political profile and social profile will be elevated significantly because this will be a destination spot for people that are visiting Utah, that will be fascinated by how Utah addresses problems like homelessness, and it will also be just a gem to look at,” Grenny said. “So we expect there’s going to be a tremendous welcome for those who understand what’s coming to the neighborhood.”

The proposal comes after the Deseret News first reported Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was eying building a tiny home community modeled after one in Austin, Texas, called Community First! Village, which was built by the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes after decades of hard-fought not-in-my-backyard battles.

The Texas tiny home village has attracted nationwide attention for its charming neighborhood feel, its quirky houses of all shapes and sizes, its paved roads, manicured lawns, gardens and patio areas. But it’s not just a subdivision of tiny homes with the feel of a KOA campground. It’s also a community with wrap-around social services, shared bathroom and cooking spaces, a marketplace, and workshops where tenants can learn trades like vehicle repair, carpentry, pottery, painting and metal work. The tenants there earn their living with jobs like gardening, mowing and landscaping.

Could these Texas solutions help Salt Lake’s homeless? A look at the ‘most talked about neighborhood’ in the country
Salt Lake City is planning a tiny home village to house hundreds of homeless. But where will it be built?
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall stands in front of a conceptual drawing for The Other Side Village — a tiny home community to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness — during a press conference at the City-County Building on Thursday, April 28, 2021. During the press conference, Mendenhall announced a partnership with The Other Side Academy to create the community by wintertime. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Nothing’s final. What’s next?

No decisions have been made. In coming weeks, Salt Lake City leaders will decide whether to approve or reject the zoning request. If they approve, city officials would need to decide whether to lease or donate the land for the village.

In the event of either a discounted lease or donation, Salt Lake City officials would conduct a public benefit analysis, which would include a public hearing. The community will have a chance to “learn more about the proposal and provide input in the coming weeks following the required early engagement process,” which includes notices to nearby neighbors and a public meeting within a 45-day period, according to Friday’s news release.

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After that early public engagement process, the request will then be considered by the Salt Lake City Planning Commission, which will determine “how it helps achieve city goals” outlined in the city’s master plans. If approved by the planning commission, the request will then go to the Salt Lake City Council for consideration.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a prepared statement expressed excitement about seeing the next step in the process toward making a Salt Lake City tiny home village a reality.

“It’s exciting to see The Other Side Village moving along in this process, which we hope will have an important, long-lasting impact on the chronically unsheltered segment of the homeless population, in particular, people for whom resource centers have not been a solution,” Mendenhall said.

“Of course, there will now be a robust and transparent public process to provide Salt Lakers the opportunity to hear about and give feedback on this proposal and we welcome that.” 

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