This week we’ll be starting a new blog series called Urban Planning 101, where we’ll dig into some of the key planning principals that make Daybreak the award winning and wonderful place that it is today. This week’s post covers the topic of centers-based development.
If we stop for a moment and think about some of the best places we’ve visited on vacation, or places near where we live that always seem to have a vibrant energy surrounding them, chances are they contain some sort of center with a mixture of restaurants, retail, outdoor spaces, and a higher intensity of housing than what is found in a typical suburban neighborhood.
The Masterplan for Daybreak actually includes three types of centers, each at a different scale, and serving a different purpose based on where it’s located and the size of the area it’s designed to serve.
As their name would imply, neighborhood centers are designed to serve a fairly small area within the neighborhood where they are located. Neighborhood centers typically contain some sort of civic use, a modest amount of open space, and a small amount of housing that is of higher intensity than the neighborhoods surrounding the center. Neighborhood centers are typically designed for residents of the surrounding community to walk or bike to them, thus they are intentionally designed without a lot of additional parking that would sit vacant most of the time and make the center feel empty. The area around the Daybreak Community Center is one of the best examples of a neighborhood center within the community. Callendar square was designed as a neighborhood square that can be either used passively for pick up games, or be programmed with small neighborhood events. Given their simplicity with just a few key elements needed, neighborhood centers can be built over a fairly short period of time.
The Founders Park Neighborhood Center is home to the Daybreak Community Center, Founders Park elementary school, and a church. It is organized around a “town square” called Callender square. It is also flanked by townhomes and smaller single family homes.
A Village center is a bit larger than a neighborhood center, it usually has a more diverse mix of uses, and is designed to serve a larger radius of residents. Village centers are often found in small towns along a Main Street. Most retail shops or restaurants are owned and operated by local merchants who live in the community. In addition to shops and restaurants, there are typically service-oriented businesses that join the streetscape such as hair salons, financial services providers, or other small offices. There is always a codependent relationship between commercial and residential development. In a true Village Center, there is usually a larger residential component present that helps support the businesses by providing a built in customer base that is located within walking distance of every merchant. This balance between the residential and commercial is key because Village Centers are different than large suburban shopping centers. They are usually smaller and don’t often contain the large national chain retailers, so they work best when well supported by local residents, especially those within a short walk or bike ride away. Village centers serve as a gathering place for major events and festivals given their central location and supporting elements such as parks, restaurants, and additional parking.
With the higher level of complexity and intentional mix of retail, residential, and offices, a village center may take several years to reach full completion as there are a number of factors that play into their planning and development. There are typically multiple village centers in any large metropolitan area as these centers are designed to serve residents who live within a radius of 2 miles or less. SoDa Row was Daybreak’s first Village center built in 2008. The new North Shore Village center adjacent to Oquirrh Lake will anchored by a Harmons neighborhood market and is set to begin construction in the Spring of 2020. An additional Village Center is planned for Daybreak’s Upper Villages which would come online as that part of the community matures.
In addition to SoDa Row’s main street, the center is home to some 500 homes including various townhomes and the Sagewood Senior Living Center. The shops and eateries also benefit from nearby South Station where an additional 500 homes are currently in place with additional homes being added regularly adjacent to the TRAX station.
A town center or downtown area takes another jump in scale, supports a much larger area, and contains a much higher concentration of both office and residential buildings. Well planned downtowns aim to strike a good balance between commercial and residential development in recognition of the symbiotic relationship between the two. For many years, downtown Salt Lake City suffered from an imbalance between office and residential uses such that the downtown core often felt “dead” in the evenings. A concerted effort by the Downtown Alliance, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and other key stakeholders sought to revitalize downtown by bringing more high-rise residential development into the downtown core. This has had a very positive effect on commerce, and also addresses many of the air quality, and traffic concerns that our valley faces by bringing more homes closer to an established employment center. Downtowns usually evolve over a period of several decades time, and don’t always come together in the exact same way. A few key building blocks have been put in place in Downtown Daybreak to ensure that this area of our community can develop into the next great town center within the Salt Lake Valley. Through a series of well-planned public-private partnerships, TRAX light rail service was extended from the University of Utah to Daybreak a full ten years ahead of when it was projected to be needed. Additionally, Daybreak’s planning team worked with UDOT and other surrounding cities to bring Mountain View Corridor through the center of the community prior to major development occurring. These two major infrastructure projects allowed development to be planned and built around them and took pressure off other arterial roads such as Bangerter Highway and I-15 to keep traffic and people flowing to where they needed to go. Today, residents can ride TRAX into downtown and up to the University of Utah in about the same amount of time it takes to drive there. As congestion along Bangerter Highway and I-15 increases in the coming decades, it will become faster and more convenient to take the train. Additionally, the mountain view highway will complete its connection to SR-201 (and I-80) in 2021 connecting residents of the Southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley into Downtown as well as down to the Silicon Slopes employment node. Residential development has already begun in Downtown Daybreak with several hundred townhomes and a 473 apartment project currently under construction near the TRAX line in South Station. The University of Utah medical center which anchors South Station, recently added a new office building bringing 350 new employees to the area. Over time, the vision for Downtown Daybreak is to create a balance of jobs and housing adjacent to the Mountain View Highway and the Trax line where thousands of people can live close to where they work.
An artists rendering of what the future town center might look like. Town Centers like Downtown Daybreak are designed to balance the jobs to housing ratio in a given area. That’s a fancy way of saying that the goal is to make it so more people can live where they work and vice versa. This provides all sorts of benefits including reduced traffic, reduced impact on air quality, and vibrant places that are active all day long and into the evening.