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Marmalade rising

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2009-08-26 -

As many as five new retail, service or restaurant businesses may join the Marmalade neighborhood soon.

I had an interesting conversation with the land developer Rick Howa today, the "ruler" or chairman of Howa Construction. He wouldn't say whether any businesses have signed leases in his new buildings on the west side of 300 West at about 500 North, but said announcements may be coming soon.

"We've gotta do some landscaping. That should happen in the next couple of weeks and we should be ready to go," he said.

There are three buildings with 30,000 square feet between them, that could be shared by as many as five businesses.

As for the anchor project, the mixed-use building planned for across the street, the condos are not "off the table" but the whole building is on hold for the moment. "By the end of the year," Howa said, his company will make a decision about whether the Live at Marmalade project will actually include living spaces.

Credit is still tight for condo buyers, Howa said, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' huge condo developments downtown presents stiff competition and potential saturation. Howa's condos were planned to be in roughly the same price point, i.e., $300,000 on up.

If the condos are removed from his plans, Howa said, commercial space will be built anyway. But don't call it a strip mall.

"I wouldn't call it a strip mall," he said. He called it "some type or retail facility; retail and office."

Howa said he's glad the city may soon redefine the MU, or mixed-use zone, in which his properties are being built. The new definition would allow bars to serve liquor and wine, not just beer. Allowing liquor, he said, widens his options for commercial tenants.

"It's a tough market. In case you haven't noticed, it's a financial crisis out there and nobody knows that better than most of us developers," Howa said. "[Marmalade] is under-served in a lot of different areas. We're trying to make sure we supply the service where it's under-served."

Despite the recession, Howa said, Marmalade remains an attractive area for development because "I think it's got the largest concentration of two-income households in the city."

And how does Howa feel about being an architect of the "gayborhood"?

"I don't call it the 'gayborhood.' I knew that [some refer to Marmalade as "the gayborhood"] going into it, and it didn't bother me," Howa said. "I don't know if two incomes are two guys, or two girls, and I don't care. I like the idea of two incomes."

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