Interview: Why small-scale development is so important


Thursday on Good Morning Utah two experts joined Brian Carlson to talk about why small-scale development is so important.

Susan Lundmark is a project manager with the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City and Brandon Dayton is the chair for Neighborhood Development Alliance.

Lundmark said small-scale development, also called “incremental development”, is an approach that allows a neighborhood to grow and change, but in a way that is incremental, organic, and natural.

This includes constructing or renovating buildings that have been designed with the size of the surrounding structures in mind. In other words, the goal is that these projects fit into the neighborhood.

Small-scale development happens gradually so as not to disrupt residents and current businesses, allowing them time to adjust to their changing surroundings. The gradual, “one-building-at-a-time approach” is less overwhelming to an area, and more effectively supports a neighborhood’s sense of community and ownership. And perhaps most importantly, this is an approach that’s driven at the neighborhood level. The people in the neighborhood do the work rather than large, outside developers.

The Central Ninth neighborhood, which is about 200 West and 900 South, is a prime example of this type of development.

So why is this type of development important to Utah?

The Wasatch Front is facing unprecedented growth and we desperately need more housing. In the past, Utah’s growth has been addressed by building additional suburbs, but this leads to its own set of problems, including the need to build expensive infrastructure such as more roads, wider freeways, and additional services out in these areas. This, in turn, leads to more traffic and degraded air quality.

Another way to increase housing is to build more densely in cities that already have infrastructure and services in place. Unfortunately, sometimes these large projects come into a neighborhood fast and furious, which ends up in considerable pushback from a community.

We have recently seen this with the large-scale developments proposed in the Holladay (Cottonwood Mall) and Herriman (Olympia Hills).

These residents are stuck between a rock and a hard place because while they are obviously concerned about the housing shortage, but they also are concerned with solutions to it happening too big and too fast.

“I can sympathize. I can see that we need to find a way to provide more housing, but I don’t want to see 8-story high-rises going up next to my home”

This is where small-scale development can really make a difference. However, we can’t always count on big developers to go small-scale, and not many other people know how to do it.

If this is a topic you’re interested in learning more about, there is a free introduction discussion on these at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 14 at Sugar Space (132 S. 800 West) or at 7 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E. 400 South).

There are also offering an intensive hands-on training workshop at the Leonardo (209 East 500 South) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24.

For more information and to register, go to and click on “events”.

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