Salt Lake City Reveals Plan For Rio Grande District Development

The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) has released the Rio Grande District Vision & Implementation Plan, revealing the future vision for the Rio Grande District in Salt Lake City. The area contains about 11 acres of RDA-owned property in Downtown Salt Lake City, which will be transformed to include a portion of the “green loop,” public art spaces and residential, retail and maker’s spaces, a new hotel and space for nonprofit operations.

This vision for an urban, walkable community will be flanked by the State’s multimodal transit hub and the historic Rio Grande Depot. The six-chapter plan is a result of the city’s partnership with global architecture and design firm Perkins & Will. Which, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says, “Thoughtfully addresses the neighborhood’s past, present and future. Technically, it identifies and explores functional designs for spaces and buildings that will advance creativity, community wellness, economic growth and opportunities for all.”

The planned new developments in the Rio Grande District also aligns with Mayor Mendenhall’s “Tech Lake City” initiative (which is meant to develop Salt Lake City into a pipeline for tech and life sciences industries) by providing incubator, laboratory and office spaces.

Plan for walkability and transit

The Rio Grande District will bolster and add to the so-called “Green Loop,” the City’s proposed 5.5-mile urban trail and park, which connects multiple downtown neighborhoods and will run through the RDA site along 500 West. 

The RDA Rio Grande District Re-development plan: The "Green Loop", a proposed 5.5 mile urban trail and linear park
The “Green Loop” is a proposed 5.5 mile urban trail and linear park that would connect to the Rio Grande District. (Courtesy Perkins & Will)

“Designed as a low-carbon community, it leverages its proximity to a variety of transportation choices and provides a healthy walkable environment,” says Geeti Silwal, Principal and Urban Design Practice Leader for Perkins & Will. They plan for the re-development area to serve as a bridge between Downtown and neighborhoods west of downtown.

The Rio Grande Distrisct plan also includes the creation of new mid-block street connections to break up larger blocks and form connections to transit (like the adjacent Utah Transit Authority Salt Lake Central Station and the proposed Orange Line) and public spaces, such as the planned transformation of 300 South into a people-first “Festival” street. This would allow the street to be closed to vehicle traffic and programmed for events and an Arts Campus Alley, an outdoor venue for local arts and performances.  

“It’s always an exciting and unique opportunity when we get to invest in the future of our communities,” says District 2 Salt Lake City Council Member and RDA Board Chair Alejandro Puy. “I am thrilled to support this transit-oriented development that lay the groundwork for an accessible and bustling area in our city.”

The Rio Grande District plan sustainable strategies include building orientation for optimal building performance, climatic comfort, and biophilia; preservation and revitalization of existing buildings on-site; on-site stormwater management, permeable surfaces within the public spaces and a central underground stormwater collection cistern to reuse for landscape irrigation; policies for all new development to be designed and operated without on-site fossil fuels; and low-carbon mobility network. (Courtesy Perkins & Will)

What’s next?

To accommodate the first phase of development, the RDA plans to lay the groundwork by upgrading utilities to support higher density at the site.

According to the plan, the development will be built in phases “over many years” and could change, dependent on the market and available funding.

Phase 1. Development is focused on the southeastern portion of the site, including:

  • Construction of Market Street and a segment of Woodbine Court.
  • Major mobility and access improvements to the existing 300 south (Festival Street) and 400 South Frontage Road rights-of-way.
  • Construction of the southern portion of the Arts Campus plaza and possible plaza along 500 West.

Phase 2. Development is focused on the reopening of the Rio Grande Depot and adding housing onto the site, including:

  • Construction of Pierpont Avenue from 600 West to Woodbine Court and the nortnern segment or Woodbine Court from 300 South to Eccles Avenue.
  • Completion of the Rio Grande Depot renovation with State of Utah departments and additional civic tenants moving into the Depot along with a publicly accessible grand concourse with new active uses.
  • New multi-family residential projects with active uses on the ground floor.
  • Anticipated construction or commercial mixed-use high-rise tower. The project can accommodate a tech anchor tenant in an urban campus setting or multiple tenants including allowances for new wet and dry lab spaces to support Tech Lake City initiative.

Phase 3. Development is focused on the parcels adjacent to Salt Lake Central Station and the Green Loop:

  • Reconfiguration of 500 West as a multi-modal street, including improved intersections at 400 South and 200 South.
  • The construction of the Green Loop urban trail and linear park on the eastern portion of 500 West.

Phase 4. Development is focused on the landmark mixed-use residential tower on 500 West and the mixed-use development along the 400 South Overpass:

  • Construction of the northern portion of the Arts Campus plaza.
  • Construction of permanent park programming at the 400 south underpass such as dog park and soccer courts.
  • Construction of the landmark residential mixed-use tower along 500 West and 300 South.

For each re-development site, the RDA says it is prioritizing projects that include climate-positive design, affordable housing for families and seniors, affordable commercial spaces for locally-owned businesses and the creation of educational and workforce development opportunities. As far as exactly how those stated priorities will manifest in this particular development, time will tell.

The RDA says it is currently developing construction drawings for the development and plans to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) from developers later this year to start building out select sites on the north block. For more information, visit

Christie Porter
Christie Porter
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

Similar Articles