RP Strategic Vision Plan FAQ

This FAQ page addresses the draft Strategic Vision Study for University of Utah Research Park (the “Strategic Vision”), available for review on the University of Utah Real Estate Administration (REA) website. The Strategic Vision is a proposed conceptual 50-year dynamic development framework for Research Park crafted by a team of consultants through a process guided by REA. The answers contained in this FAQ page are provided by REA and are accurate to the best of REA’s knowledge as of the date of posting. The Strategic Vision is a working draft and is subject to review and approval by the university’s administration, Board of the University of Utah Research Foundation and the University of Utah’s Board of Trustees. It is REA’s intent to update these pages from time to time as the review process continues.

General Information


No – The Strategic Vision is not a firm plan of action; rather it is a capacity study that identifies the potential development capacity of Research Park over a 50-year period.  It is not a plan and does not represent a commitment from the University to pursue full build-out.  Support for future development will be determined in upcoming years based on market conditions and approval by the University’s senior leadership and governing boards. Understanding potential capacity via the capacity study is critical to appropriately planning infrastructure improvements for both current and future Park occupants. This process also allows for the development of a phased prioritization strategy for the implementation of infrastructure upgrades, improvements, and additions.

We anticipate the Strategic Vision will be substantially completed in fall 2020.

In 1975, the Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents delegated to the University of Utah president and University of Utah Board of Trustees broad discretion with respect to management of Research Park. More information on this delegation can be found here.

We anticipate seeking input and approval of the Strategic Vision from the University of Utah Board of Trustees, as well as the Board of the University of Utah Research Foundation, by the end of 2020. More information regarding the University of Utah Board of Trustees can be found here.

Specific Research Park development projects are subject to the University of Utah Protective Covenants and oversight by the Advisory Board of Review created by the Protective Covenants.

Copies of documents associated with the current Protective Covenants can be found below:

Protective CovenantsAmendment to Protective CovenantsArchitect's Design Guidelines

The east University Student Apartments are facing infrastructure obsolescence that likely will result in unsustainable upkeep and operating costs within the next seven years. Accordingly, current projections suggest a need for redevelopment within the next seven to 10 years.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department provides services for the entirety of the University of Utah campus, and Salt Lake City Police and University of Utah Police work collaboratively to provide services within Research Park.

The university continues to evaluate the potential long-term effects from the current forced “work-from-home” environment and its associated effect on the overall market demand for space as well as its effects on the desire for more active, functional outdoor spaces. The shift to mandatory telecommuting for many businesses has significantly reduced public transit ridership and average daily vehicular traffic arriving and departing from Research Park. As a dynamic framework, the Strategic Vision is able to be responsive to changes in demand from economic and societal changes over the next 50 years.

Yes. The university will make all necessary impact fee payments to Salt Lake City to support increases in Research Park demand on city infrastructure such as streets, water, sewer, police, fire, etc. In addition, we are considering assessment of fees for Research Park tenants to support a Transportation Management Association as a component of the Protective Covenants updates. Fees will be focused on supporting ongoing programming and infrastructure improvements to improve utilization of active transportation and other transit solutions to, from, and within Research Park.

Yes. The 2009 Research Park master plan was reviewed and provided the foundation for this new, yet to be formally approved Strategic Vision that outlines an updated dynamic vision for Research Park. The university’s master plans provide a framework to guide and respond to evolving demands, economic forces and goals of the stakeholders. Accordingly, the university revisits and updates its master plans periodically with an eye to the future while using the past as a foundation.

  • The Research Park Strategic Vision embraces the initiatives called out in the Regional Activity Center section of the East Bench Master Plan, also enumerated below:
    • Support a mix of uses.
      • The Strategic Vision is evaluating the potential for a well-rounded mix of potential land uses.
    • Integrate future projects with city planning efforts.
      • SLC departments (Public Utilities, Transportation, Planning, Economic Development, RDA, Community & Neighborhoods, and the Mayor’s Office) are engaged in the planning efforts to ensure that the framework embraces and incorporates city-wide planning efforts.
    • Increase transit options.
      • The Strategic Vision is focused extensively on ways to create more equitable access to all modes of transportation including but not limited to setting aside rights-of-way for future high capacity transit infrastructure such as bus rapid transit and rail.
    • Manage growth according to infrastructure demand.
      • The Strategic Vision incorporates feedback from a consultant focused on evaluating capacity of existing infrastructure (utilities such as electricity, gas, water, sewer as well as streets, etc). This feedback is based on engagement with the associated utility service providers.
    • Respect natural assets.
      • The Strategic Vision embraces ecological and sustainability priorities. Updates to the Protective Covenants are planned to have a focus on incorporating those ideals and prioritizing them.
      • The Strategic Vision further strives to create additional open space amenities that activate and/or restore natural environments, while providing connectivity between existing natural corridors. For example, the conceptual Green Spine can provide an active transportation corridor between the Scott M. Matheson Park and the Red Butte Creek riparian corridor.
    • Improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.
      • The Strategic Vision focuses extensively on providing safer more inviting experiences for pedestrians and active transportation solutions, such as biking, into the proposed street typologies and land uses.
    • Support the growth of Research Park as an Innovation District.
      • It is a core principle of the Strategic Vision to provide an actionable framework for more strategically and proactively guiding the growth of Research Park for the next 50-years.
    • Strengthen the identity of the Cultural District.
      • The Strategic Vision focuses on providing opportunities to better incorporate the cultural and open space amenities into the fabric of Research Park by increasing accessibility. Similarly, the desire is to enhance existing environmental features and create more active transportation corridors such as the Green and Social Spines.

Governance


Research Park remains subject to restrictions set forth in the original land patent by which the U.S. Department of Interior (acting through the Bureau of Land Management) transferred Research Park property to the university. The patent requires that the university manage Research Park consistently with a Management Plan that is revised, from time to time, by the university and the Bureau of Land Management. A copy of the original land patent can be obtained here.

The land in Research Park is owned by the university, a state entity. Development on land owned by a state entity is not subject to municipal zoning requirements.  Utah law does require the university to consult with city authorities with respect to proposed development on state land. The university is working closely with city officials in connection with the development of the Strategic Vision. Additionally, the university engages with the Advisory Committee for Research Park, comprised of internal and external experts, to ensure compatibility with the Protective Covenants as well as to ensure appropriate, well-designed developments.

  • Has that been investigated and, if so, is there be a need to modify those parameters?

Research Park development is subject to compliance with the Park’s Protective Covenants. The Protective Covenants and associated design guidelines will continue to provide use and development criteria for Research Park. Proposed updates to the existing Protective Covenants and design guidelines are in process, coinciding with development of the Strategic Vision.

  • What entity would need to grant those changes, if they are required? (The land grant has a management plan.)

The university is currently evaluating the need to provide an update to the Bureau of Land Management for the Management Plan.

The university has engaged many Salt Lake City departments throughout the Strategic Vision development process. Representatives from community and neighborhoods, transportation, public utilities, mayor’s office, parks and public lands and economic development departments, as well as the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA), have each provided input. Salt Lake City is a critical stakeholder for Research Park development, as the owner of the street rights-of-way, trails and open space, water and sewer infrastructure, etc. See Section 1 immediately above for more information on the Salt Lake City zoning.

Understanding applicable federal and municipal housing laws and regulations is underway but the desire and intent is specific to university and Research Park constituents.

As mentioned in Section 1 immediately above, development on land owned by the university, including Research Park, is not subject to municipal zoning requirements. However, the university is working closely with city officials in connection with development of the Strategic Vision. The university anticipates the Protective Covenants, and associated design guidelines, will provide use and development criteria for Research Park. Updates to the existing Protective Covenants and design guidelines are in process, coinciding with development of the Strategic Vision.

Transportation & Traffic


In developing the Strategic Vision, the university has relied extensively on a traffic and transportation engineer, Nelson Nygard, to identify impacts to traffic and transportation infrastructure and to identify and evaluate mitigation strategies. Traffic studies have been a significant component of this process, including a mobility analysis. We anticipate final decisions regarding traffic signals on Sunnyside and Foothill will be made by the appropriate state or local authority.

These traffic studies are in development and will be made available to the public when they are finalized.

For purposes of the Strategic Vision, the university is analyzing a proposed additional “mid-block,” mass-transit-only access way on Foothill between Sunnyside and Wakara. The Strategic Vision calls for transportation demand management strategies, including public and active transportation improvements, and contemplates the addition of workforce housing, which are all intended to mitigate and generally reduce the negative air quality impacts of reliance on single-occupancy vehicle commutes.

Transportation analysis has been a significant component of the work within the Strategic Vision, with traffic and transportation engineer Nelson Nygaard providing leadership in this area. Environmental and ecological planning work has also been a critical component of the Strategic Vision, with Biohabitats providing leadership in this area.

Copies of the following draft studies are available for download:

Yes. The Strategic Vision adopts and reinforces strategies intended to provide Research Park users both (1) access to transportation alternatives other than use of single occupant vehicles, and (2) safe infrastructure and programmatic incentives for increased reliance on more active and shared modes of mobility, such as public shuttles, cycling, scooter share, and more prominent pedestrian corridors constructed within Research Park.

The Strategic Vision is suggesting a phased land use plan that includes a highly connected multimodal transportation network as well as parking and transportation demand management policy measures. The intent of the Strategic Vision is to create a transportation network that is supportive of active transportation while also mitigating the current heavy reliance on single occupancy vehicle trips. In formulating the ideal transportation and land use scenarios, some of the data used in the modelling process included Wasatch Front Regional Council transportation data, commuter survey data, Utah Metro STRAVA data and actual intersection and segment traffic counts.

While the Strategic Vision contemplates the aforementioned possible development over the next 40-50 years, the Strategic Vision anticipates the number of parking stalls will not increase significantly given the emphasis being given to increased availability of multiple forms of public transit and transportation demand strategies.

For example, the Strategic Vision contemplates significant improvements to public transit opportunities (such as shuttle routing through the Campus Circuit, etc.), as well as programmatic support around Transportation Demand Management (TDM) concepts supported through the creation of a Transportation Management Association (TMA). TDM strategies such as a park-once model, parking fees, discounted or free transit passes, rideshare, etc., will be evaluated and incentivized through the TMA. Moreover, the mixed land use contemplated by the Strategic Vision, including an element of residential housing, will assist Research Park in mitigating peak traffic flows by ensuring individuals can live, work, play, and learn within Research Park. The Strategic Vision places significant emphasis on providing access to a broader range of multimodal transportation choices (pedestrian, bicycle, scooter, etc.).

The planned mobility hubs contemplated by the Strategic Vision would integrate with the Campus Circuit, which is anticipated to be a high-service-level, transit-oriented loop connecting Research Park to the main campus, health sciences campus and the associated existing TRAX infrastructure via university shuttles and future potential transit solutions. We anticipate the Campus Circuit will also connect users with integrated mobility options for moving around within Research Park, such as bike and scooter share, etc.

University planning efforts for the Strategic Vision have been consistent with our objective to reflect the Foothill Drive Implementation Strategy. We anticipate the proposed “transit only” access point from Foothill into Research Park midway between Sunnyside and Wakara will support primarily mass transit modes, such as bus rapid transit, university shuttles, etc. Any additional access points to state or city owned roadways would be considered in collaboration with those stakeholders who participated in developing the Foothill Drive Implementation Strategy.

As Research Park grows over time, careful consideration has been given to mitigate the amount of trips and parking demand through compact and mixed-use development, internal trip capture, prioritizing transit and active transportation use, and incorporating shared parking and policies reductions. 

Without these additional multimodal improvements, preliminary analysis shows there are currently about 42,000 daily trips, with those trips increasing to 55,000 in ten years and 86,000 in twenty years by the proposed phased-development strategy. With the multimodal improvements the Strategic Vision proposes, an initial decrease of about 3,000 trips will occur over five years (39,000) and then increase to 40,000 in ten years and 56,000 in twenty years. 

Additionally, Research Park currently has about 10,320 parking stalls. With the mitigation strategies proposed by the Strategic Vision, preliminary analysis shows peak parking demand will be between 8,230-8,720 in Phase One (0-5 years); 9,160-9,570 in Phase Two (5-10 years); 10,140-11,350 in Phase Three (10-20 years); and 10,880-12,610 in Phase Four (20+ years).

Land Uses & Infrastructure


Retail contemplated in the Strategic Vision will be neighborhood-focused and small in scale. No big box stores or strip malls are contemplated. Retail would be embedded on the street level of buildings with a focus on activating the pedestrian realm, creating multiple places for convening and providing an amenity to Research Park residents and employees, as well as adjacent neighborhoods. We anticipate that retail development will be focused on local flair and would be on a scale comparable to Salt Lake City walkable neighborhoods at 15th & 15th, 9th & 9th, or Emigration Market at 17th & 13th.

Housing data suggests that increases in Research Park’s 24/7 occupancy will help support a broader level of neighborhood retail amenities, an increase in safety and security, and a more active and engaging innovation ecosystem. Data also indicates that well-rounded mixed-use in Research Park has the potential to mitigate traffic impacts through a reduction of trip generation of as much as 8-10%.

Concern has been expressed about the number of future residential units planned for Research Park. Although data suggests that there will be significant market demand for housing in Research Park over the next 50 years, maximizing the amount of housing in Research Park is not a target or goal of the Strategic Vision. While the Strategic Vision does contemplate some housing, the actual number of units to be constructed will be determined in future years with support and approval of the university’s senior leadership and governing boards and based on data that such housing will contribute to the vision of Research Park as a dynamic innovation hub that will contribute to regional economic growth and competitiveness. Within the next five years, the housing currently contemplated for Research Park is the possibility of construction of up to 300 units.

An overall utility and infrastructure analysis was completed by the engineering firm BKF.  A copy of the draft report of their study can be found here.

Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions


Current building heights contemplated in the Strategic Vision for buildings within Research Park fronting Sunnyside would be limited to three stories to accommodate developments similar in nature to stacked townhouses and to provide a buffer and transition area from the core of Research Park to the nearby Sunnyside East single-family home neighborhood.

The university is committed to creating equitable solutions to housing. We anticipate a portion of the new housing will be allocated for affordable or below-market rate housing. The specific levels are under development and consideration inclusive of all university affiliated housing.

As the Protective Covenants are reviewed, specifics around energy and environmental requirements will be considered for inclusion in the design guidelines to a greater extent. Improvements in areas around ecological design, net zero energy buildings, dark sky preservation, and noise mitigation have been areas of specific focus.

The current Research Park Master Plan does not require current or future tenants to abide by new industry standards. It is a goal of the Strategic Vision to provide updates to the Protective Covenants to require development to comply with standards to reinforce the university’s commitment to carbon neutrality, sustainability and design with a focus to creating equitable, engaging space solutions for the next generation of live, work, play, and learn communities.

We know these initiatives and design standards are important and represent best practices and we are committed to exploring how we appropriately include them in the updated Protective Covenants and design guidelines.

We know these initiatives and design standards are important and represent best practices and we are committed to exploring how we appropriately include them in the updated Protective Covenants and design guidelines.