Building a legal framework

UTA provides bus and rail transit to the residents of Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital and largest city, and suburbs, including Sandy City, about 13 miles south. The agency’s system serves 70% of the state’s population.

  • If all goes as planned, here’s what the Civic Center TRAX Station in downtown Sandy City, Utah, will look like when completed.

    Credit: Sandy East Village TOD, Developer: Hamilton Partners, Designer: IBI Group

    If all goes as planned, here’s what the Civic Center TRAX Station in downtown Sandy City, Utah, will look like when completed.
Expecting population to increase 60% by 2040, UTA set the stage for TOD by combining local planning efforts with participation in several federally supported initiatives.

Agency managers applied for and received technical assistance through SGIA and a $5 million planning grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program.

In 2010, UTA gained legislative authorization under Senate Bill 272 to enter into joint ventures as limited liability partners with private developers, wherein UTA would receive an interest in income from the development of TOD on UTA owned property. UTA receives a limited liability equity interest in the venture in exchange for the contribution of certain property that is not critical to the transit solution. A framework has been established to guide the development of such ventures through operating agreements that provide for appropriate reviews by UTA’s Board of Trustees, using guidelines approved by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Under the framework, UTA receives interest in the development based on the value of the property at time of conveyance; future property value increases would be shared proportionately at time of sale.

In addition, UTA will realize profit from its joint venture TODs via its ownership position in the TOD which includes their negotiated portion of the development’s long-term cash flows and percentage ownership in the TOD.

Organizing resources

After identifying 27 potential sites, the authority formed a TOD department to ensure it makes good use of both the legislation opportunity and its participation in the EPA assistance program.

Working with the region’s metropolitan planning organization and Envision Utah, a nonprofit public-private partnership in Salt Lake City that facilitates community planning, six that would catalyze further TOD were chosen. Of those, stakeholders settled on 32 acres at Sandy City’s Civic Center TRAX Station that were undeveloped or serving as surface parking. The rail station is within walking distance of city hall, a conference and event center, a business park, a major league soccer stadium, and a regional shopping mall.

With a goal of increasing ridership as well as generating long-term revenue for both UTA and the community at large, UTA and the city began planning for high-density, mixed-use development around the station. To ensure the area is a great place to live and work, community amenities in the master plan include a village square; transit plaza; trails to a nearby nature preserve; 1,122 residential units; 300,000 square feet of office space; and 30,000 square feet of retail space. Construction is expected to take seven to 10 years with Phase 1 beginning this spring.