Council considers future of city-owned properties along St. George Boulevard, near Dixie Center

ST. GEORGE — The future of two city-owned properties was a topic of discussion for the St. George City Council last week as council members and city staff pitched ideas for what may be developed on property on St. George Boulevard and near the Dixie Convention Center.

A map of the project area at 100 West and St. George Boulevard. City-owned property is marked in red | Graphic courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

The first property discussed sits at 100 West and St. George Boulevard and was bought by the city in 2016.

The property is also west of Ancestor Square and is the former site of buildings that housed The St. George Inn and St. George Bicycle Collective. Those buildings were torn down by the city in early 2022.

The city also owns lots on the opposite side of 100 West where businesses like Premiere Auto, Oakes Family Auto and Hooray! Engraving currently reside. These parcels were obtained by the city between 2020 and 2021.

The future of the 100 West parcels was previously discussed by the council and staff during a July 2022 meeting. The consensus at the time was that whatever was developed there should help enhance the city’s downtown while also focusing on becoming a gathering space. Council members said the location also should support a commercial venture and not a mixed-use project similar to nearby City View and Joule Plaza.

“Housing’s not going to be our No. 1 ask,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said during the July meeting and repeated during the council’s Jan. 26 meeting when the property was brought up again.

While plans were previously in the works for the city to issue a request for proposal for developers to share concepts about what could be built at the 100 West property, none appeared to gain the council’s favor.

In this file photo, the dirt lot along St. George Boulevard and 100 West that is the subject of redevelopment talk by the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, July 28, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Many proposals have been “all density” and “shots in the dark,” Mayor Michele Randall said, adding that some developers were also “getting pushy” about what the city planned to do with the 100 West property.

“We have several options for this property,” City Manager John Willis said. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries on this property as you can imagine, but this time the city can be choosy. I think we can hold out for the right project.”

A proposal made to the city in 2018 would have created an open-air market and built a new hotel on the property. That proposal eventually fell through and left the city contemplating how to go about the site’s redevelopment.

“This is key for the downtown and Boulevard area,” Councilman Gregg McArthur said. He also echoed Hughes’ earlier sentiments that the spot be used for entertainment, commercial or retail purposes. “Housing should be a district second,” he said.

As city officials take time to decide exactly what they want for the downtown property, Councilwoman Natalie Larson said it could be used as a space for food trucks.

“To me, that could be an inviting space,” she said.

Willis said that could be accomplished with some minor infrastructure improvements to the area.

Due to previous proposals falling short of the council’s expectations, a suggestion was made that the city change course and solicit the services of an architect or other qualified individuals who could help the city develop and narrow its own vision for the 100 West property. Once that was done, the city could restart the bidding process for developers still interested in the property.

The St. George City Council discusses issues affecting the city, such as power costs and the future of city-owned properties, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

This time around developers would be subject to a more defined concept and direction of what the city wants for that space.

“I think that would be worth our time,” McArthur said.

Hughes said he liked the idea of seeing the 100 West property developed with city direction yet didn’t want the city to end up becoming an outright partner with whatever venture eventually went there. He also agreed with Larson’s view that the space should be used in some capacity until its eventual development.

Councilwoman Michelle Tanner said she would like to see the property sold off and let the free market decide where development goes from there.

“This will go to the free market,” McArthur said, adding the city bought that property to make sure it was developed in a way that was in harmony with the city’s vision of the downtown area. Once that is achieved, the private sector will be able to carry that project forward.

By the end of the discussion, the council told staff to begin the process of issuing a “request for quote” process that will enable the city to receive bids from individuals or firms that can help move the direction of the property’s use forward.

The council also discussed 11 acres of the city near the Dixie Convention Center. The property sits west of the convention center and north of the Hyatt Place and Holiday Inn hotels between 120 East and Crosby Way.

While the city bought the property for multiple purposes, it has been approached multiple times by people wanting to purchase and develop the spot.

“We should always entertain an offer,” Hughes said.

The circled area shows the general location of 11-acres of property owned by the city of St. George | Map courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

McArthur said the city should wait on selling the property developed until after road improvements connected to the property are made. Once the roadwork is done, the value of the property will increase, he said.

Randall said one of the proposals the city has received is for an events center that could complement the Dixie Convention Center. Specifically, the idea was pitched to the city that the facility could turn St. George into a stop for large concert events that move between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

In this case, the developer for such a project would need to be seriously vetted first, McArthur said, adding, “Let’s just not undersell ourselves.”

While the idea of an events center appeared to appeal to a majority of the council, it was decided the city would sit on the property for now.

“We’ll hold on to it until something really great comes along,” Willis said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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