ST. GEORGE — After years in the making, residential tenants have begun to move into Joule Plaza with commercial tenants not far behind.
Although it was a bit of a dreary morning, with temperatures in the low 40s, the first of 197 units began to fill at Joule Plaza on Wednesday.
Everyone associated with the mixed-use project, which includes commercial space on the first floor and residential apartments on the upper floors, was excited to finally see light at the end of the tunnel of a project that began six years ago.
With portions of the building still under construction, Wes Davis, developer and broker for NAI Excel, said even now with just the first residential tenants moving in, the impact to the local economy will be tremendous.
“In total, you are bringing in potential 200 to 400 residents downtown and all of those people have to spend money on something somewhere,” Davis said. “Along with this impact, it will have an effect on the tax base both on sales taxes and property taxes.”
As the developer of the approximately $34 million project, the idea behind bringing a mixed-use building to St. George was to offer something unique to the city.
“A lot of people like to come to St. George,” Davis said. “We already have a handful of residents who live out of the area that want a place to live when they come to town.”
Along with part-time and full-time residents, Joule Plaza is expected to attract rentals from tourists who choose Southern Utah as an annual destination.
“This was the first project that was proposed as a mixed-use building to the city,” Davis said. “Although the process was somewhat lengthy and cumbersome, the city and other influential political people have been huge supporters of our vision.”
With residential units beginning to fill this week, they will move on to two commercial tenants with a handful of others planning to move in during the coming weeks.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike is equally excited about Joule Plaza’s potential.
“For us, adding apartments downtown and being paired with retail and commercial offices only made sense,” Pike said. “The idea was to create a place for people to live and others to work. It is meant to be a walkable community where people can play and shop within the downtown area. We hope that downtown will continue to be a vibrant place.”
Prior to Joule Plaza, the neighborhood across from the 5th District Courthouse on Tabernacle Street was in need of redevelopment with older homes and derelict buildings dotting the area. The property, which had been in the Wilkinson family since 1950, was the original site of Wilkinson House of Lighting prior to the business moving across town. The old building was destroyed in July 2017 by fire.
“This was a really great opportunity to reinvigorate that end of town square,” Pike said. “Now, there are lots of advantages to being in that area.”
City officials hope the plaza, along with the City View Apartments, will become a stellar example of the success of a mixed-use concept.
“These are similar,” Pike said. “People living, working and recreating downtown. We think this is a good thing. It shows energy and vitality.”
Mixed-use projects, Pike added, might have a trickledown effect by attracting other businesses such as restaurants, art galleries and performing arts venues to the area.
“For many people, this is going to be a great location close to many things in the heart of downtown,” he said.
Joule Plaza features more than 19,000 square feet of commercial space as well as residential units that range from studio apartments to one and two-bedroom accommodations.
The apartments will include high-end features like granite countertops, wood plank tile, balconies, high-speed internet and a dog wash. It will also include common areas to mingle with fellow residents, a fitness center to burn off unwanted pounds, and a pool with a hot tub to float away a sunny afternoon.
Prior to its groundbreaking in 2018, in order to move the plaza along the city created a tax-incentive zone for new development in the downtown area in 2016.
Pike praised the current and former city councils and town mayors for their vision for downtown to become a true destination to visitors and residents, something vastly different than what it had been in its past.
“This has been part of an effort for a long time,” Pike said. “Redevelopment doesn’t happen overnight. They take a lot of planning and on the part of the developers it takes considerable financial investments that are not without some risk.”
Although it does have its costs, Pike added, places like Joule Plaza have a lot of benefits.
“One of the fun things about the new building is that as you get a chance to go up to the higher floors, some of the views of the city are just great,” Pike said. “For some, these are views that people have never seen. It’s fun to see things in a new way from a new perspective.”
Joule Plaza developers anticipate the second and third phasing of move-ins by the end of January.
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