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HomeLocal NewsUtahHow Salt Lake's newest development turned 'blight into great beauty'

How Salt Lake’s newest development turned ‘blight into great beauty’


SALT LAKE CITY — Brandon Blaser’s career in private equity took him to schools and firms all over the U.S. over the past 20 years. However, when the BYU graduate decided to launch his own firm in 2018, he knew he wanted to return to Utah.

That’s about the same time he came across a section of Salt Lake City that was once home to the Newspaper Agency Corporation and various warehouses, nestled between downtown and a major entrance into the city by I-15.

“It was an area that people would look down, look away, look up at the mountains, but look past in order to get to our downtown,” Blaser said.

While others may have looked past it, he decided it was the perfect place to begin.

Six years later, the 13 acres of land he acquired by 300 West and 600 South stands out because it’s more of a mixed-use community than a singular development. The new Post District has been reimagined into 580 housing units along with space for bars, breweries and restaurants. The vacant printing press is now the headquarters for Traeger Grills.

It’s also likely just the beginning of this area’s growth. A pool dangling off the western edge of an apartment building’s third-story balcony offers a unique vantage point of the growing Granary District as Salt Lake City’s downtown growth jets farther south and west from its traditional boundaries.

“My congratulations go to (the project team) for turning blight into great beauty,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall during a ceremony to celebrate the project’s completion on Thursday.

Tapping into potential

A theme emerged in the development industry while Blaser worked at a firm in Dallas. Places like Denver; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and Charlotte, North Carolina; exploded onto the scene with the help of reimagining historic buildings and old industrial warehouses, turning them into hip housing projects, offices and third spaces.

When Blaser returned to Utah to launch Blaser Ventures in 2018, he found that Utah’s capital had the same potential as those other cities, it was just earlier in the process.

“Fortunately for me, we hadn’t had that kind of industrial renaissance yet,” he told KSL.com.

He started with that block he came across near the Granary District, a section of the city southwest of its downtown core. It was in rough shape at the time. The block’s vacant buildings were riddled with graffiti and many windows had been smashed. Blaser also remembers having to clear out 13 abandoned vehicles from the block shortly after purchasing the land.

Yet he couldn’t shake off the feeling that the area had potential. Salt Lake City’s many vacant historic businesses and warehouses were located by a major freeway and near existing transit — future light-rail service may end up running through the district, too. He thought it could be turned into the perfect welcome mat for those heading into Salt Lake City.

A change in the tax code also helped. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included the creation of “opportunity zones.” The idea is that investors can get tax benefits for taking on projects that spark economic growth and job creation in underserved communities or generally abandoned areas like the Granary District.

Blaser took his idea to Lowe Property Group and Bridge Investment Firm, and the collective tapped into this incentive to move the project along. It was the first Bridge Investment Firm project to utilize this tool and one of the first in the state overall, according to Nick Gonzalves, the firm’s deputy chief investment officer.

Gonzalves said the firm ultimately saw the same potential in the block because of its proximity to everything.

“It was really Bridge’s founders that were like, ‘If we’re going to do this, we have to go big,'” he told KSL.com. “The project was exactly what the opportunity zone was designed to do — build a full neighborhood, a pure live/work/play area (and) bring something to where there was nothing.”

Going big with development

Most of what existed in 2018 remains intact, as about 70% of the properties were repurposed. Blaser explained that he wanted to keep the “soul” of the block alive through all of the changes, which is also where the development’s name comes from. “Post” is a nod to the newspaper printing presses that existed on the block.

The development is anchored by 580 apartment units of different sizes spread out across three buildings, ranging from $1,400 to $5,000 per month to appeal to different income groups. The properties come with all the same amenities as other new housing developments in the city, such as a fitness center, a pool and a congregation area.

Yet it differs from most projects because of what it also features.

As the project started to pick up, Blaser took a “paper drawing” concept he had for a restaurant inside the complex that he gave restaurateur Brooks Kirchheimer. That became Urban Hill, a fine dining spot that opened over a year ago featuring a James Beard Award-finalist chef. It, the Urban Sailor Coffee and Level Crossing Brewing Company, are three of about a dozen bars and restaurants planned for the district.

A mid-block road and walkway separating housing units and the Traeger Grills headquarters within the Post District is pictured on Thursday.
A mid-block road and walkway separating housing units and the Traeger Grills headquarters within the Post District is pictured on Thursday. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Traeger Grills’ relocation from Sugar House also brought hundreds of jobs to the area, mixing in work and dining options to the housing.

It’s just the beginning of growth in the area. Salt Lake leaders approved rezoning measures last year, allowing for more building height and density in downtown Salt Lake City and areas close by like the Post and Granary districts. Then-City Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros said the city was aware it would have to “build up at some point” because of the geographical constraints that prevent the city from spreading out horizontally.

Blaser is poised to be a part of the ongoing changes just outside of downtown as growth moves toward the Granary District. He now owns about 60 acres of land in the area, which is slated to feature more construction and historic building renovations for a range of different uses.

“(Post District) sets the bar for what we want to continue to deliver for Salt Lake in the future,” he said.



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