How Salt Lake City might add buildings in the medians of its extra-wide streets

Architecture City Terrain Development Southwest Transportation Urbanism
(Courtesy Kentlands Initiative)

(Courtesy Kentlands Initiative)

Over the course of four years, the Granary District of Salt Lake City has been trialling “median development” whereby pop-up shows, stands, and other forms of temporary architecture exist literally in the middle of the street. Now, James Alfandre, director of the Kentlands Initiative, proposes something more concrete.

To say Salt Lake City’s roads are incredibly wide is an understatement. Initially, this width was derived from former Mormon Governor of the Utah territory who stipulated that a team of oxen and their cart should be able to turn around in the street.

In fact, this phenomena is particularly prevalent in many Mormon cities in the United States. However, what was relevant and functional in centuries past is not so today. The width of the roads in a modern city is now an inefficient use of space and in Alfandre’s eyes, an opportunity for entrepreneurship.

Building on the success of the trials that saw the streets be transformed into vibrant areas of social interaction, with the space being used for performances and predominantly as a gathering location, Alfandre now proposes a more long term solution.

(Courtesy Kentlands Initiative)

(Courtesy Kentlands Initiative)

Median development in this respect would shrink the size of the street, dividing space between pedestrians and vehicles as outlined in the diagram above.

In the trials, median development gave rise to shipping containers to form “Granary Row” (seen in the video’s above). Using this template, the Kentland’s Initiative is working with the city to lease the median for 99 years, allowing them to build permanent structures and even housing.

Crucially, the median is already under city ownership, meaning that residential space be procured essentially for free. This can then either be sold as a profit or used for low income housing. Alfondre says, “In essence you’d be taking land that was once allocated to cars—or oxen and carts, if you will—and giving it back to the people.”

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