June 14, 2008

Riverton Eyes a California-Style Development Project

By Steve Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune

Jun. 14--RIVERTON -- For most city officials, a group field trip usually means a drive down the road to a barren field or a city park or a historic building.

But today, 11 Riverton officials will buzz all the way to Southern California for a dip in the June sunshine of Rancho Cucamonga, compliments of about $5,000 in taxpayer cash from the city's economic-development fund.

Riverton Economic Development Director Jeff Hawker said the city has worked hard to keep down costs. The mayor, all five City Council members and five senior staffers will fly down and back in the same day to avoid hotel costs.

The quick trip will give city officials a firsthand glimpse of a 150-acre mixed-use development called Victoria Gardens. Riverton might mimic that project's architecture and layout -- though on a smaller scale -- for a potential residential-retail development.

"If we're successful," Hawker said, "this would help to secure the financial future of the city, so it's a very, very significant thing to do."

The city does not yet own the targeted Riverton property -- between 12600 South and 13400 South from Bangerter Highway to the future Mountain View Corridor -- and current landowners have not yet formally agreed to the preliminary plan, which Mayor Bill Applegarth said is five to 10 years off.

Hawker said the site, with its proximity to two highways, would enjoy high visibility -- a la Jordan Landing in West Jordan and The District in South Jordan.

Though the Riverton project would pale in comparison to the vast Rancho Cucamonga development, Hawker said the California excursion will give the city some ideas for architectural plans that would be unlike anything in Utah.

And unlike The District or Jordan Landing, Applegarth sees Riverton's venture as more of a town center or gathering place.

Said Hawker: "We would like to do something there that is regionally significant and of long-term value -- not only to Riverton but [also] the entire region."

In mid-March, Riverton issued a building moratorium on the potential development site. That lid will last until September, giving the city time to draw up a master plan to avoid piecemeal projects that could impede a broader development.

"It's critical we make the right decision," Councilman Roy Tingey said, "because this will have a big impact on the west side."

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About the SoCal development

Victoria Gardens is a 150-acre regional shopping center designed by Ohio-based developer Forest City. The $200 million mixed-use project opened in 2004 in Rancho Cucamonga, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

The city's population is 171,000, slightly less than Salt Lake City's and almost five times that of Riverton (population 36,000). Victoria Gardens includes 1.3 million square feet of retail and office space, 14 acres of outlying retail area and 20 acres of multifamily housing. The project features a city-run cultural center with a 540-seat performing-arts center, library and public Celebration Hall.

The shopping center's merchants include Abercrombie & Fitch, AMC Theatres, American Eagle Outfitters, Borders, Gap, Macy's, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, Williams-Sonoma, Zumiez.


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