SLC Gets High | Urban Living
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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

SLC Gets High

Posted By on January 26, 2022, 4:00 AM

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As we like to say in real-estate sales, "They ain't building any more land!" Dirt that you can build on is a precious commodity in all of our major Utah cities right now, so the next best frontier is to build up. I always thought that if I moved back to New York, I would want to sell "airspace," or the air above buildings. I could sell airspace in Utah, but it's not a common commodity ... yet.

When you buy a piece of land or a home, you ostensibly own all the way to the center of the earth and all the way up above the earth's surface. You have the right to develop up or down without interference by others—within regulatory constraints—unless there is a water, mineral or air traffic right or a utility easement blocking your way.

The idea that "Whoever owns the soil, it's theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell" became common law in the 13th century. I remember back in 2005 when a small church in NYC agreed to sell its vertical development rights for $430 per square foot so a high rise (520 Park Avenue) could be built above it. They pocketed $30 million, and the church and the high rise co-exist today.

Developers in our capital city just broke ground on Astra (Latin for "star") Tower on the northwest corner of 200 South and State Street, where a Carl's Jr. stood until recently. Astra Tower will be the tallest building in Utah when completed in 2025, at 450 feet above the street. This will beat out the Wells Fargo Center at 422 feet, the LDS Church Office building at 420 feet and Tower 8 of City Creek (95 State Street) at 395 feet.

Hypothetically, there are no height restrictions to buildings in Salt Lake—city ordinance allows for exemptions to its zoning rules—or New York City for that matter. The One World Trade Center, which replaced the World Trade Center towers, is 1,176 feet above sea level, Central Park Tower is 1550 feet and the 30 Hudson Yards tower—next to the new "Vessel" attraction— is 1,270 feet.

Old-timers in Utah will wax on that "No building can be taller than the LDS Church Office building." But that, my friends, is a myth. For many years, the COB was indeed the tallest structure in Salt Lake City—and it actually looks taller than it is because it sits on a hill leading up to the State Capitol Building. As we built up our capital city for the 2002 Olympics, we learned the COB's height was not a ceiling, and the Church proved that when they built the high rise condominiums at City Creek just in time for the games.

Astra is not going to help the affordable housing crisis. Indeed, it will be offer 372 luxury apartments for rent. There will be 40,000 square feet of communal amenities, including an elevated urban park on top of a seven-level parking structure—similar to Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, which is now badly leaning!—a clubhouse with a chef's kitchen, a pool on the 22nd floor, a roof terrace and a 24-hour concierge service. They will also seek the highest level certification—Gold—for green construction.

About The Author

Babs Delay

Babs Delay

Bio:
De Lay is realtor/broker/owner of Urban Utah Homes and Estates. She is a former member of the Utah Transit Authority's Board of Trustees.

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