You've probably heard enough about the "Depot District" and the homelessness problem to wonder if anything else is happening on downtown's west side. There is, in fact, plenty going on. Careful planning by public and private entities is underway for the area behind the Rio Grande Depot and farther south in the Granery area—much of it spearheaded by two nonprofits: Artspace and Volunteers of America.
Founded in 1980, Artspace is best known for its Pierpont Avenue warehouses that were repurposed into groovy live/work spaces on the south side of the street between 300 and 400 West. Artspace now has several mixed-use projects that incorporate affordable housing and commercial spaces such as art studios, galleries, offices and retail shops.
In 1995, Artspace made the California Tire & Rubber Co. Building into 53 low-income units. Those are located above Urban Cheapskate and The Jade Market. In 2001, Artspace built 62 rentals from scratch for its Bridge property that sits west of The Road Home and house Spyhop's studios. My favorite of all Artspace buildings is Artspace City Center, next to the Bridge. Trains used to pull in to this former ZCMI warehouse to unload goods. It was redesigned to allow an interior courtyard for 18 live/work townhomes. It also houses the Utah Arts Festival and Art Access groups.
Artspace then bought land in the Granary District and cleaned up the brownfield on the Utah Barrel & Scrape site before erecting new housing known as Artspace Commons, which opened in 2010 with 102 units. In 2013, they added 30 additional units—next door to the Commons—at Artspace Solar Gardens, with enough solar photovoltaic panels to power the entire building.
Now Artspace is rehabbing the long-abandoned Beehive Building next to City Center. Called Macaroni Flats, it is slated to open next year. Brava, Artspace, for revitalizing this neighborhood and bringing in new residents by offering rare-and-getting-rarer affordable housing.
The nonprofit Volunteers of America is building a youth center at 888 S. 400 West to provide emergency housing for 30 homeless youth between the ages of 15-22. The new building will have 20,000 square feet of housing, 24/7 services, classrooms and computer stations and an interior courtyard.
West downtown's distressed Depot and Granery districts are getting more attention. They represent the last bastions of land and buildings that can be cleaned up and rebuilt but kept affordable for both housing and businesses. They will get even more notice as businesses and renters move in.