Nearly two dozen Orem residents lined up for a chance to voice their opposition to the timeline and scale of a mixed-use development at University Mall. Most recognized that the development was going to happen, but they wanted the city to slow down and let residents have a closer look at something that could change the face of the city.
After several hours of discussion, the council declined to hold off, and instead voted 6-1 to approve a zone change and concept plan for the project. Councilman Hans Andersen voted against the project.
The 112-acre University Place project will change the look and use of the area around University Mall. The company that owns the mall, Woodbury Corporation, plans to build residential units, more retail space, hotel, offices and a massive park. Most of the mall will remain intact except for the part of the building that includes the now-vacant Mervyns department store, which went out of business several years ago. Part of that wing will be torn down early next year — if everything goes according to plan — to begin work on the park. Other parts of the first phase include a new road between 800 East and State Street, an office building on University Parkway and apartments north of the movie theater on 800 East.
The park will hold a large lawn area, children’s play yard, water fall, reflecting pool, stage and more.
“The project should be vetted with more time,” Arturo Morales, representing a group of residents called Standing for Orem, told the city council. “We’re just asking to slow down. We can easily approve phase No. 1 with 450 units without having to rezone the entire property. We get what we want — more time to vet the project. I don’t think this is too much to ask.”
He said the group isn’t opposed to growth and new business; it just wants the city to slow down and for Woodbury to give residents a better idea of what this project is going to look like.
Shelly Parcell said she’d like the city to require the full city approval process — planning commission and city council — for each phase of the project, to allow residents to continue to have a voice in the project. As it stands, the developer would go to the planning commission for site plan approval, but not the city council.
Councilwoman Mary Street said it wouldn’t make sense to require approvals at each phase because the developer must build infrastructure for the whole project and needs assurances that the project is fully approved.
Density is another issue for residents. The development allows for 1.5 residential units per 1,000 feet of retail space, or 25 units per acre.
“The real issue is not what the mall is trying to do, it’s the density of that apartment building,” said Rob Deucher.
Signs and billboards were another problem for residents, with the proposal to allow 14 billboard-type signs in the project, with one resident saying the project would turn Orem from Family City USA to Billboard City USA.
Steve Earl, an attorney for Orem, said though there’s a chance the city could be sued over allowing the signs, it’s likely the city would win. Woodbury has said it would cover litigation costs, though if the city lost a case it could have to pay damages.