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Midvale Journal

Midvale — 10 years ago, 10 years ahead

Jan 02, 2020 11:35AM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in Midvale right now, not just the city [government].”

“We were a small part of that, UDOT and Canyon School District and there’s a lot going on in the private sector,” Chris Butte, economic development director of Midvale City said. 

In the past 10 years, that money has gone to and will continue to go to Bingham Junction, Jordan Bluffs, roads and every single public school.

“It was a three-year funding process that enabled us to identify almost all of the major roads in Midvale and take a three-year process to redo those. We have the two major projects of I-15 southbound and northbound,” Butte said.

“And a lot of other people are coming in and doing construction too, like Verizon. It’s not just the city,” said Laura Magness, public information officer for Midvale. 

Bingham Junction and Jordan Bluffs have transformed 7% of city land from bare and unstable to vibrant and active. 

The two neighboring projects provide business and housing for the city, which in turn provides tax income to the city and residences for the growing population.

Many cities are criticized for letting developers build high-density housing simply to make money at the expense of quality of life of the residents. 

Sophia Hawes-Tingey, a Midvale resident active in local and state politics said, “We don’t need a bunch of apartments. Eventually, we may get to the point where we need a bunch of these high rises…. All you need to do is double 3% of the density of the city year over year.”

“You work to make sure the developers make sure there’s a place for everyone to live. That’s Midvale: that everyone has a chance.”

On the flip side, Butte maintains that continuing what used to be the typical development in Utah, single-family suburban sprawl, is more harmful for the current economy.

“If we just did moratorium, single-family detached only, we could lay off half our staff, triple our property taxes, and when you triple property taxes that could have two effects. Land values are going up or you get flight. And if you get flight it doesn’t take long before you’re Detroit, non-paying doomsday,” Butte said.

It isn’t just Utah and Salt Lake County that are seeing growth and urbanization.

“Most of the development across the country is multifamily. And a lot of that’s attributed to just sheer economics and life choices. You have people with means or creative people moving back to the city and abandoning …sprawl,” Butte said. 

“What facilitated... sprawl initially, was after the wars we had the GI bill. You could get a FHA loan, 5% down and go buy your white picket fence. A lot of that was tied to the social media at the time.”

While the growth is not unique to the valley, the changes that residents are only going to multiply. 

“The Wasatch Front, as of two years ago, had a 40-year housing shortage which meant we had more families than we had houses,” Butte said. “The economy is evolving. We’re not forcing the growth, we’re just trying to do it intelligently so we have a mix, a balance, so we can increase quality of life.”

Magness further explained that in some cases, the city doesn’t get to choose what goes on a piece of property. 

“If zoning allows to build an apartment, many times our hands are tied legally because it’s their private property. The face of Midvale is changing. But so is the rest of the state.”

“ …[T]hings are market driven. The city doesn’t have complete control, we have some influence,” Magness said. 

Midvale planners intend to create a stable lifestyle that keeps costs down and is healthier for the environment, as well as accommodate the natural growth.

“What we’re hoping for …if [Jordan Bluffs] comes together correctly with the high-density adjacent to linear parks, where you also have six-story office buildings then we can set up an environment where people can live, work, and play all in the same community. We have that going on at Bingham Junction, we have a lot of those employees in the residential units walking to work.” 

“If they’re walking to work...that’s a win for Midvale, that’s a win for them, the state of Utah, a win for clean air. 

“That’s urban geography 101, the more urban you get the less car ownership you have. It’s painful to own a car in New York City,” Butte said. 

Council’s influence

In November, the City Council reviewed an update for the general development plan for the city. The plan outlined a preference for “modernized parking” and many council members were vocally against that wording. 

“We have people that live in Bingham Junction that complain about parking all of the time. I don’t know what ‘modernized parking’ looks like but we can’t go lower,” Councilmember Bryant Brown said. 

Resident Hawes-Tingey agreed with council. 

“By saying ‘we have transit you don’t need parking,’ it doesn’t work. We're changing culturally but we’re not changing that fast. And UTA is working on solving the problem but until it doesn’t cost more to ride public transit than it does to drive an electric vehicle or hybrid you’re going to run into those issues,” Hawes-Tingey said. 

In reply to this type of concern, Butte said, “People often turn those two-car garages into storage. When we review projects, you have a two-car garage that should be four parking spaces.”

When cars are on the street there is something to be stolen. 

“If your car is in the garage and the door is closed, there’s nothing to break into. That affects police calls, taxes, all that intertwines,” Butte said. 

One practice can have a domino effect that is not always obvious. Higher police calls requires more officers, which requires more taxes to pay for those officers. 

Midvale school development

Midvale public schools are in the Canyons School District. Canyons became a district in 2009. 

Since then, the district has bonded twice for school improvements in Midvale. In a few years, every school in the city will either have been refurbished or constructed new. 

“We were able to rebuild Midvale Elementary School ... Midvale Middle School and we have now started work on a new Hillcrest High, Midvalley Elementary and in the coming two years we’ll start work on the new Union Middle School. The other schools in the Midvale area have received new front offices and daylighting projects,” said Jeff Haney, Canyons District representative. 

Residents are often concerned about the growth of residences and how that impacts the schools. Butte said in response to this concern, “It’s not a huge impact in the schools, because you have a different demographic. The group that’s really emerging is bright young professionals, they don’t have kids yet.”

School expansion is dependent on decisions made by the district, not the city. 

“We have a long-range planning committee, have members of the board of education, the superintendent and several members of his staff and they ... look at the incurrent enrollment of the schools, the capacity of the schools and also take into consideration where the growth is. They also factor in the building permits and the plans of the cities,” Haney said. 

Demographics of Midvale 

“Bright young professionals” as referred to by Butte, is a group of people categorized by ESRI, a geographic information system company. ESRI compiles data that will show the spending habits, income and family situation of a population. That data can then be used to predict needs of residents based on their financial wants and abilities, as well as their trajectory. 

Bright young professionals is one of the three largest economic groups in Midvale. An ESRI report on this group reads, “Approximately 57% of the households rent; 43% own their homes. Household type is primarily couples, married (or unmarried)....” 

For Midvale, this means that the population is growing, but many new move-ins do not have children and have some money to burn. 

“It’s a minimum impact on [schools] because you have a different demographic. You have a lot of ‘bright young professionals’ that don’t have kids yet. They’re actually really good because they frequent business establishments,” Butte said. 

The other two major groups in Midvale that are directing the type of growth in the city are “young and restless” and “parks and recreation.”

Young and restless is a group that has less relationship commitments, are finishing college programs or have just graduated from higher education. 

“Almost one in five residents move each year. More than half of all householders are under the age of 35, the majority living alone or in shared non-family dwellings. Young and restless consumers are diverse, favoring densely populated neighborhoods in large metropolitan areas,” the ESRI report stated. 

The third most common group in Midvale — parks and recreation — is the oldest of the three groups and are mainly stable households with older children or are empty nesters. 

“These practical suburbanites have achieved the dream of home ownership. Their homes are older and townhomes and duplexes are not uncommon. Many of these families are two-income married couples approaching retirement age; they are comfortable in their jobs and their homes, budget wisely, but do not plan on retiring anytime soon or moving.”

“Neighborhoods are well established, as are the amenities and programs that supported their now independent children through school and college. The appeal of these kid-friendly neighborhoods is now attracting a new generation of young couples,” the ESRI report said. 

These three groups are what drives the development in the city, and large businesses that cater toward these groups are most likely to be interested in investing in Midvale. 

The future of Midvale

“The biggest transformation in [the next] 10 years that you will see is obviously Jordan Bluffs and Fort Union. We have a project that’s starting in about 60 days that’s taking basically three- story class C office buildings, they’ll be demolished by February if not before. And what will be created there will be six/seven-story multi-use (buildings). Most of it will be residential and some retail on the corner,” Butte said.

Many cities in the valley are creating central urban hubs. The Sugar House area, north of I-80, is an example of the changes that Midvale will see. 

“[T]hink about [Sugar House] 30 years ago. The difference between Fort Union and Sugar House is Fort Union has better infrastructure, more elaborate, wider streets. Union Park is six lanes. And then you have Fort Union Boulevard that already has 72 buses going up it every day. And you’ve got a transportation hub that will probably be created in that area too,” Butte said. 

One of the economic benefits for Midvale City is that major roads connect directly with Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. This makes Midvale an ideal destination for ski tourists. 

“Then you’ve got the ski buses. They’re increasing them from last year an additional 18%. You have four ski areas all part of our grand ski area that have increased lift capacity but haven’t added one parking stall,” Butte said.