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Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Daybreak Utah Winter

As the days become shorter and the nights longer, a cold has crept over Utah making the air crisp and clear. On Christmas morning I woke up to find the landscape blanketed with the snow that has made Utah a winter travel destination. Many call it "the greatest snow on earth." They love how the dry Utah environment produces a dry powdery snow that is highly desired by ski and snowboarding enthusiasts. Others feel that it can be the greatest back breaking work on earth as they struggle to keep their sidewalks and driveways clear of the seasonal onslaught.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the winter as a welcome change that brings new activities along with the snow. My favorite of these is snowboarding. Utah is home to 13 world-class ski resorts and is a paradise to those who love the slopes. Most of these resorts are within a short driving distance of the Salt Lake Valley and provide a great day trip for family recreation.

When one cannot get up to the ski slopes there are plenty of opportunities for fun right here in the community. Especially for those who are young or at least young at heart. Every time I pass Central Park, the new Eastlake Park, or the hill sloping down from Pale Moon Lane I see a multitude of kids sledding down in a variety of contraptions. They have even been making mounds of snow off of which they enjoy a brief moment of being airborne.

I often see the kids engaged in an epic snowball fight or building "Snowzilla" in the front yard. The kids on Lake Run Rd and Copper Sky Drive have built excellent snow forts.

Near Oquirrh Lake I found cross country skiers and residents walking around in snow shoes. Did you know that you can burn 544 calories an hour by walking the Daybreak trails in snow shoes? That could definitely help with a new year's resolution. If you are the extreme type I found the blog of a Daybreak Resident who is into extreme biking. Apparently he has a snow bike and has been testing it out on the "skateable art" in Eastlake. So to those who hate the snow and the cold that come every winter: get some warm clothes on and remove yourself from your house for awhile. You will find that taking advantage of the greatest snow on earth will boost your spirits and shrink your waistline.

Monday, December 15, 2008

eBay Building Computer Center in Daybreak

eBay Inc. and the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced today that a “next-generation” data center will be developed in the Daybreak Commerce Park. This data center will support the many websites that Ebay Inc. currently runs including, PayPal, Skype and among others. This new facility is expected to generate approximately 50 jobs that will be compensated at an average of 150 percent of the Utah median wage.

eBay Inc. chose Daybreak because of the infrastructure (fiber-optic network, low cost of power). The GOED office also cited the highly qualified workforce that has developed in Utah as the result of many high-tech firms locating operations here.

The eBay facility is actually the second large computer operation to locate in the Daybreak Commerce Park, which sits on the northwest corner of Daybreak development. Oracle, a well-known business software developer, broke ground on its global information technology center in October.

The facility is expected to cost 334 million dollars to build. As with every building in Daybreak, the facility will feature new green technology. Considering the building will house literally thousands of power-sucking computers this will be important from a cost standpoint in addition to being a “environmentally friendly” company as well. These new green features will include a “water side economizer that uses outside air to cool water versus motorized chillers and variable speed drives to run fans and chillers on an on-demand basis. Additionally, rainwater will be used to supply the cooling tower and for landscape irrigation.” I take this as extremely good news as many companies have been cutting jobs to sustain their operations. A prime example of this is Kraftmaid Cabinetry who cut hundreds of jobs in the adjacent community of West Jordan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Pool in Founders Village - 2010

Early in the development of Daybreak, Kennecott Land had plans to create a beach club that would be situated just outside Founders Village along the shore of Oquirrh Lake. This deal fell through for a number of reasons and residents of Founders Village felt like a promise had been broken. When Kennecott Land announced that a new pool was to be constructed in Eastlake Village, many residents were pleased with the new amenity, but still wanted something similar to be located in Founders Village.

After months of relaying this concern to the HOA and KL, a meeting between a group of homeowners and Kennecott Land has resulted in a plan to build a pool similar to the Eastlake Village pool in Founders Village. The pool will be located next to the Daybreak Community Center (DCC) and has several financial advantages.

The first advantage is that the pool will not need to be designed again as the plans are already in existence. Using these plans saves homeowners an estimated $150,000 dollars. By locating it next to the DCC, there is a possibility of restructuring the showering facilities there to be of use by the patrons of the pool. Local Health Department approval will be needed in this case, but if executed correctly this proposal could save up to $300,000. A final cost advantage is that a variety of firms will be bidding on the project. While this may not seem like a change from other projects, many residents have noted local companies that could construct the pool at a much lower cost than what the Eastlake Pool commanded.

The economic conditions in the construction industry may also be to our advantage as they have become slightly more competitive in recent months. While the swimming pool was discussed at length, the most important product of this meeting was a proposal to transition ownership of the DCC to Daybreak homeowners. Currently Daybreak homeowners are in a 20 year lease agreement for use the DCC with Kennecott Land. The current lease rate is about $270,000 per year. However, under the current agreement this lease will increase to $335,000 per year in 2010. This essentially adjustable rate lease would leave Daybreak Homeowners without ownership of the DCC in the end. The proposed plan is that the homeowners finance the DCC through essentially a mortgage. Attendees of the meeting went over the numbers with the Chief Financial Officer of Kennecott Land and this deal could save homeowners an estimated 6.7 million over 20 years and we will have ownership of the DCC with a pool in Founder’s Village.

Here is a timeline for upcoming events related to this proposal:

  • Dec 16th Daybreak BOD meeting
  • Jan – HOA will process reserve fund analysis
  • Feb – Pool Committee meeting with KL to go over layout and specifics
  • Feb – Notices sent to residents of BOD meeting to decide on the proposal
  • Mar – BOD Meeting - Residents voice concerns – measure voted on by BOD May (2010) – Founders Village Pool opens on Memorial Day weekend

This proposal could benefit all residents of Daybreak, but especially those in Founders Village. The deal will probably be to the benefit of Kennecott Land as they will be able to free up capital. Specific financial information (terms of the loan, comparative analysis, etc) will hopefully be forthcoming so that homeowners can make an informed financial decision for the future of Daybreak.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Daybreak on YouTube

Youtube has been one of those technologies that has taken the internet by storm. The idea for Youtube started in 2005 and by July 2006 the company announced that 65,000 new videos were being uploaded daily. It is now the third most popular website on the internet behind google and yahoo and has had a total of 5 billion videos viewed as of July 2008. In 2007 Youtube consumed as much bandwitdth as the intire internet in the year 2000. With all of these videos uploaded to this site, it did not suprise me to find videos that featured areas of Daybreak.

Of course, many of these videos are not by residents. In fact, most of them seem to have been made by Liberty Homes or other real estate agents. These videos take you on tours of the interiors of homes that are on the market. Not a bad idea considering you can now take a tour of a home without having to leave yours.

Other videos that come up if you input "Daybreak Utah" in the search field include a tour of Daybreak by a couple that drove around during the North Shore exibition. Another features a family fishing at Oquirrh lake. The video was posted by metallica mom if that tells you anything. The final video that I found features teenagers skating the "skatable art" in the new Eastlake park. The skater carries the camera with him as he goes over the humps of the "monster."

Who knows, maybe we will see more videos posted in the future as more people start carrying video cameras everywhere. If you have a video that you would like to mention, just leave the link in the comments section of this post.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TRAX in Daybreak - Real Estate Boost?

As we experience a declining housing market in the U.S., it is important to consider the geography of areas both losing and gaining property value. In Utah we are currently seeing some neighborhoods decline as they are primarily constituted of homes in the higher price ranges. Beyond this trend, there is another subtle trend that I have noticed taking place across the country. Homes within a walkable distance to light-rail stations are fairing better in this down market and some are even gaining value.

The Washington post reported on this trend, showing the percent change in the median home price of individual zip codes of Washington D.C. and its surrounding counties. The paper found that areas without direct access to metro stations - ones that were typically suburban in nature - experienced greater losses in median home value.

In Denver, where they have pushed light-rail construction heavily, the Denver Post reported that values have increased for homes near light-rail stations:

Margarete Humphrey knows her bungalow near the Louisiana Station light-rail stop is in a hot neighborhood. But she was surprised to learn the value of her home has increased over the past two years as much of the metro Denver housing market has declined. Homes near light-rail stations along the southeast line, which opened in November 2006, have increased by an average of nearly 4 percent over the past two years, according to an analysis by Your Castle Real Estate. But the rest of the Denver market declined an average of 7.5 percent.
While most of the studies indicate that transit increases property values, there are a few that have found that it decreases property values. In looking at these studies these negative impacts occur because of the negative side effects that are realized by those properties located right next to rail facilities. The noise, aesthetics, and traffic were cited as the primary culprits. In these studies homes that were in extreme close proximity lost value, but homes further away (but still within walking distance) gained value. However, most of these negative impacts can be mitigated by proper planning. The Daybreak plan looks to mitigate these factors as the TRAX line follows commercial, industrial, and retail properties in its penetration of the community. So these "nuisance effects" are absorbed by these non-residential areas that actually benefit from the traffic of cars and people. Further benefit is realized as these non-residential properties will be using the TRAX parking to their benefit.

So how does transit increase property values? Because it increases access to area destinations for residents in close proximity to transit stations. It is for this very reason that TRAX may be able to add maximum value to the Daybreak community. Daybreak essentially lies on the fringe of development in Southwest Salt Lake County. To get to most destinations, residents must travel either East or North to arrive there. Right now there are limited options to do this and accessibility is definitely a problem. TRAX offers a direct route to Salt Lake City, the University of Utah, various sports complexes, shopping centers, commuter rail, etc. While gas prices have recently gone down drastically, I do not expect them to stay there. The more gas prices increase the more people will see TRAX as their best transportation option. This will only increase property values more.

Overall, transit adds value to communities like Daybreak regardless of the economic climate. Neighborhoods and communities with strong connectivity will thrive in the long-term. Transit has the ability to increase (or at least sustain) value because it provides more people with access to essential destinations in a given area; it also improves one's quality of life in congested metropolitan areas such as the Wasatch Front.

Monday, November 17, 2008

University Healthcare at Daybreak

Kennecott Land released a statement today about a new medical care facility that will be built right here in Daybreak. While this facility is not as massive as the hospitals located near the University of Utah or in Murray, the statement indicates that the facility will only be the first phase of a medical “campus” to be built in the coming years as Daybreak is built to completion.

This first phase will feature a 150,000 square ft. building that will be situated on about 10 to 15 acres. To get a perspective of the size of this first facility, the Rio Tinto Corporate Center that presently stands next to Oquirrh Lake is 175,000 square ft. So it will be a little smaller, but not much. Within this space the University plans to incorporate primary and specialty care along with radiology. They will also have a pharmacy and vision care center there as well. Not a bad start to what will be a regional medical center.

Future plans include an expansion of the campus that will take up to 50 acres to be situated near TRAX and the Mountain View Corridor. This future medical campus will include a full-service hospital, surgery and imaging center and an AIRMED base. From my perspective this facility and future campus will be a major boost to Kennecott Land’s Daybreak plans. Having quality medical care nearby is an attractive proposition to the massive demographic wave of baby boomers. These are people who will need medical care close at hand and will move to a neighborhood like Daybreak to be near it. Hundreds of workers will be employed and will be spending their lunch breaks at nearby cafes and might decide that it would be nice to be able to walk to work. While many of the workers will be support staff, other employees will include doctors, nurses, technicians and managers. Professionals that will seek a nice neighborhood nearby to live in.

All of these benefits along with the impact it will have on the local economy and tax base has convinced me that this move is a true stroke of genius by Kennecott Land. However, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, this medical facility will need to be integrated into the community seamlessly. This can be accomplished with good planning and design of which Kennecott Land has certainly demonstrated so far with Daybreak. Hopefully this trend will continue. However, I can’t help but notice a peculiar yet increasingly common sequence of events in this case. First Kennecott donates a mass of money to support the new Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah and now the University plans its new regional care facility to be in Daybreak. Of course we have seen this with many other capital projects in which Rio Tinto has an interest. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

Monday, November 3, 2008

East / West Mobility - The 114th South Corridor

If you live in in the Southwestern portion of Salt Lake County (South Jordan, Herriman, Riverton) and commute, then you probably already know how difficult it can be to drive eastward toward I-15 in the mornings and back again after work. This East - West mobility issue has been a problem for decades. While different roads have been widened to help alleviate traffic, it has always been too little to late.

For Daybreak residents, this new corridor will provide a straight line connecting the community to the largest transportation artery in Utah. This aspect of the plan definitely gets a thumbs up from me. However, to accomplish this, we will be displacing long-time residents of South Jordan. That is the price of progress, but I consider it a costly one. While many may argue that building another road is not the answer, I would have to disagree. This simply provides another option and relieves the congestion on 106th and 123rd. This road will accomodate the current population with TRAX and the Mountain View Corridor addressing future population growth.

Construction could begin as early as late November 2008 with a completion date of fall 2010. Construction will widen the road from four lanes to five, add bike lanes and sidewalks as well as a bridge over Union Pacific and Utah Transit Authority tracks near the Jordan River. The road will connect to I-15 using the usual interchange seen on 106th and 123rd.

Early Light Academy Enrollment to Begin

The Early Light Academy, a new charter school in Daybreak opening in fall 2009, will begin the enrollment process in combination with a parent information night on Thursday (Nov.6) at 7:00 pm. This free session, open to the pubic, will be held at the Daybreak Community Center. In addition to learning about the enrollment and lottery process, parents will have the opportunity to meet the Early Light Academy’s governing board and their chosen team of experts
including Academica West, Atlas Architects, and K12 Inc.

Granted approval by the Utah State Board of Education, the public school will accept kindergarten through eighth grade during its first year, adding the ninth grade in Fall 2010. At full capacity, total enrollment will be at 750 students. Classroom size will not exceed 25 students.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trees for Daybreak

The street that I called home when I was a child was lined with trees. Any memory that I have while playing in my neighborhood includes these long-lived giants. They were planted long before I was born and will probably outlive me even if I live to be 100. The shade they gave during the hot summer months, the brilliant colors and piles of leaves in the fall, the climate and peace of mind that they provided was more valuable than any other amenity. Sara Ebenreck said that trees outstrip most people in the extent and depth of their work for the public good.

Considering these memories, I am glad that the landscape plan for Daybreak calls for the planting of 100,000 trees among the 4200 acres that will eventually make up the whole of the community. It is one of the major reasons that I moved here. Most of the trees in Daybreak are just getting started, but given time will grow to be the same green sentinels that I enjoyed in my old neighborhood.

This transformation will dramatically affect every aspect of life in Daybreak. For example, one of the main underlying philosophies of Daybreak is conservation and smart growth. We are building homes that are energy efficient, planting water-wise plants and reducing runoff among other things. All of these efforts will be reinforced by the planting of trees.

  • "The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day."—U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • "Landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent, by shading the windows and walls of a home." — American Public Power Association
  • "The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply." —USDA Forest Service

Trees help the environment in more direct ways as well. Especially in Utah, the temperature underneath a tree can be much cooler. By using trees in our neighborhoods, we moderate the heat-island effect caused by the heat radiated by pavement, buildings, and other hardscapes. The quality of the air we breathe is improved by trees as the leaves filter dust and other particulates. Trees also absorb other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and recycle it into oxygen.

One of the most interesting affects trees have is on your pocketbook. Besides saving money by lowering energy costs, trees can increase the value of your property. A house with mature trees can be worth 5 to 20 percent more than homes of similar size and quality.

But when will these benefits be realized? While the full benefits will not be realized for at least a generation, proportioned benefits will be realized along the way. Depending on the growth rate of the variety of trees planted in Daybreak, some will take much longer. I personally look forward to a fall day 20 years from now when the trees are turning colors and the children are crunching the leaves under their feet. If you have any other reservations about planting trees in Daybreak, then just look at the two pictures below. The same street photographed at different times (no digital manipulation) one with trees and one without. Which street would you rather live on?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daybreak Housing Market

The Salt Lake Tribune reported today that homes in the Salt Lake Valley have returned to 2006 levels. According to the median home prices in our zip code (84095), they are correct. If you look at a graph of median home values it is easy to see that we have peaked and that values have decreased since the second quarter of this year. With home values now on the decline, Daybreak, like all other areas, is experiencing a record number of foreclosures. These foreclosures are for every type of property from condos/town homes to 5,000 square ft. single family homes. So now we ride the downhill slippery slope. But how fast and for how long will the market decline? If you can answer that question, then you will probably become a millionaire soon. The market is always unpredictable. However, looking at common sense factors can help establish a good prediction.

One of the largest factors that needs to be considered is Daybreak's success. Daybreak has been steadily increasing its already large share of the new home market. Last year Kennecott Land boasted that for every 10 houses sold in the salt lake valley, one of them was located in Daybreak. This has now increased to one out of every seven new homes. Why? In a market where buyers can be picky, they are choosing a differentiated product. You cannot find a community like Daybreak anywhere else. Another factor to think about is the 7,500 tax credit for new home purchases. The deadline for this credit ends next summer. Buyers will want to take advantage of this for all of the reasons I stated in my previous post on the subject and will not want to miss it.

A third reason is the Village Center. I know, it is definitely late in becoming a reality, but now I can see the skeleton of a retail building being constructed every time I pass Oquirrh Lake. Once this part of Daybreak is finished I expect demand will increase even more. For those of you not familiar with the predominant religion/culture here in Utah, you should not factor out the new temple being built in Eastlake. This like everything else in Daybreak is arriving later than expected, but when complete it will definitely be a major attraction for LDS buyers.

While there are many expensive homes in Daybreak, you can find plenty of affordable options. Most buyers have found themselves priced out of the market, but with options in the 180 to 220 range, some of those buyers will consider Daybreak their best option. Another attraction is that unlike many developments, these townhomes and condos are interspersed with more expensive homes creating a community of variety instead of a mass of town home/condo clones.

Utah as a whole has always been behind the national trend. This would suggest that we have further to go before we see prices increase in a steady fashion. However, Utah's economy is better than most and has not had to wait while congress takes action. Instead, measures were already in the works to boost the housing market long before Utah arrived in a foreclosure "danger zone."

Given these conditions I am betting that Utah and Daybreak especially will have a slower decline that will not last as long as other areas of the country. Especially those homes that are in the low to mid 200s. A local realtor who calls himself Utah Dave brings up an interesting point for those buyers who are looking to upgrade their home. He reasons that while the market for starter homes is still fairly stable, the market for larger, more expensive homes has gone down quite a bit. The old adage "buy low sell high" could apply here. Sell your starter home at a decent price and buy your upgrade at a considerable discount. Not a bad idea.

For those of you who follow this blog regularly you will have noticed that I took a rather long break from writing any posts. I did this for two main reasons: my work has recently taken up much more of my time. I have also been working on integrating a new feature into this blog that will be very informative once complete. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What is in a Name?

Most streets in Utah follow the grid system and are therefore generically named with numbers. It is only when you have entered the residential neighborhoods that you start to see names for the streets. Is it easy to name a street? Not if you live in a valley as big as ours. Each time a development is planned, its founders must struggle to find names that have not already been used somewhere else in the valley. The names must be submitted and go through several different entities to assess if the name is unique and practical. Most of the names submitted are rejected.

Some developers will get creative with their street names. This can be a good or a bad thing. Some will create theme neighborhoods. Names like oak circle, pine street, maple lane, and a dozen other trees will find their way onto the street signs. In the neighborhood just South of the University of Utah you will find that many of the streets are named after ivy league schools. You will find Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale for example. They can also get corny with the names as well. Apparently there is a neighborhood in California that named its streets after Star Wars characters. Vader Avenue anyone?

Some names are clever, Hemming Way, Ubinaranda Circle, and Willbea Road. Others just make you shake your head. How would you like to live on Finally My Way? So when I started to see words that I had never heard of before on the street signs in Daybreak, I thought that I would look up their meaning.

In Daybreak, a few of the street names are actually French. Mille Lacs means “thousand lakes” and Lac Vieux means “old lake.” Of course many of the names in Daybreak seem to be the average type of names that you would expect of a new development: Cold Canyon, Warm Canyon, Cool Canyon. However, there is a theme that most Daybreak streets have in common. Most of them are named after lakes or towns in the Midwest and Southern portions of the U.S. Degray? Lake Degray, Arkansas. Greer’s Ferry? Greers Ferry, Arkansas. Dardanelle? Dardanell, Arkansas. Coralville? Coralville, Iowa. In fact, most of the names seem to be concentrated in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. Why? Who knows, maybe some of the planners of Daybreak left a small imprint of themselves by naming the streets after places in which they grew up or have fond memories. I can only guess. If someone knows, then please comment and enlighten us all. In the meantime I encourage you to look up the street you live on. You might find something hidden in plain sight.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Daybreak Down Payment Option: First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

While Utah has so far enjoyed a relatively small decline in the residential real estate market, many other states have not fared so well. With the strict standards in place for mortgage qualification and the lack of plentiful buyers home values have dropped quite rapidly. In light of this crises, the US government has made efforts to intervene and boost the economy. One of the facets of their efforts is the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit. For those who would like to purchase a home in Daybreak any time soon: listen up.

The First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit is not an actual tax credit. A tax credit is when the government either reduces your tax liability or increases your tax return dollar for dollar. The name sounds like it is free money. It is not free money. However, this does not mean that you should not consider using this program. The First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit is actually an interest-free loan. You pay the loan back via your taxes for the next fifteen years. At this point you may be asking - is it worth it? My answer is definitely yes.

If you understand the time value of money you will know that a dollar in 1993 was worth more than a dollar now in 2008. Why? Because it had more buying power. It could buy you more bread, electricity, even gas. (Actually then it could buy you about one gallon) That was 15 years ago. In short, while you will have to pay every cent back to the government in the next 15 years you will gain a lot of value with this deal.

The maximum amount that you can qualify for is 10% of the value of the home you intend to buy with a cap of $7500. So if you buy a home in Daybreak you will qualify for the full amount. You can even use the tax credit as a down payment for your new home if you work it right. You get the benefit of the tax credit after you file right? Yes, however, right now FHA financing requires a minimum down payment of 3.5%. On a $250k purchase that is $8,750. The FHA allows a buyer to borrow money from family for down payment. This means that a first time buyer could borrow the down payment from relatives, make a home purchase, then use the tax credit to pay back all or a portion of the borrowed funds.

If your still not sure, consider this: assuming an interest rate of 7%, the home owner saves up to $4,200 in interest payments over the 15-year repayment period. Compared to $7,500 financed through a 30-year mortgage with a 7% interest rate, the home buyer tax credit saves home buyers over $8,100 in interest payments. If you are still a little worried about the housing market in Utah consider this: if it goes down further and you are forced to sell, then you will not have to pay back the government for the tax credit "loan." So if you are on the edge, it would probably be a good idea to jump off before the July 1st, 2009 deadline.

Two Creeks in Herriman, Utah: A Disaster in Density

In an earlier post I mentioned housing density and how it impacts the surrounding community. The main point of the article was to show that density in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, if a dense development is not properly planned and located, it will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on the community.

When writing that article, I was not aware of the aspirations of a developer to build a high-density rental development in Herriman. Considering the proximity to Daybreak, this development will almost certainly affect those residents of Founders Park Village. Daybreak as a whole will be affected by this new development as the new high school for the area will be located adjacent to the development.

The new development will be called Two Creeks. Miller Timbergate Associates LLC appeared before the Herriman City government to gain approval for the first two phases of the project: Timbergate and Farmgate. These two phases will be dense. At around 20 units per acre, this will truly be the densest development around. Even Daybreak following the concept of new urbanism cannot claim densities as high as this development. Even if densities get higher in Daybreak in the future, they will be integrated into the community with a transect style of planning. Two Creeks is located near homes that are not even close to the planned density of nearby developments. Imagine your home next to multiple 4 story, 32 unit complexes. The Two Creeks plan suggests that the developer wants to develop his land his way without regard to the surrounding community in a piecemeal fashion that really doesn't fit.

The estimated population of the two approved projects is 1,696 people. With this many people, traffic is a real concern. However, this development will be located next to the proposed path of the Mountain View Corridor. By doing this, much of the traffic from the development will likely be dissipated. Not a bad idea right? Most local governments are in cooperation through Envision Utah to put higher densities next to the transit corridors. One problem with this plan is that it assumes that the Mountain View Corridor will be built and that when it is built that it will not be a toll road. If it is a toll road, I cannot imagine many of the residents of Two Creeks utilizing the road. TRAX is nearby, but these residents will be made to cross not only 118th South, but also the Mountain View Corridor to access it. Unless significant infrastructure is put in place to make this crossing safe, you will see additional problems. It will just be easier for them to hop in a car and drive. The location of this development, on the fringe of Salt Lake County, should also be a consideration as the price of gas would prevent the necessary long commute for many of these residents. Most of which are calculated to not have substantial financial means.

The traffic problem will only be exacerbated by the fact that the new area high school will be located literally within feet of the development. I wonder if all of the sports facilities that come along with the high school will be perceived as amenities for Two Creeks. Also, with the concentration of a lower socio-economic population you will have dual working parents and transient families. With many of the parents gone, I can imagine quite a few students hanging out in Two Creeks without supervision after school.

The single worst part of this development is that it will concentrate thousands of citizens of a lower socio-economic class. As stated in an earlier post about density this can cause a multitude of problems. Crime and social disruption will increase in this area with such a large concentration. This cluster will enable all of the myths that are associated with a higher-density development to have an opportunity to come true.

I have it from a good source that these units are meant for government Section 8 housing. The Section 8 program allows those who qualify to pay rents that are adjusted to their income. 30% of their income goes to rent. For example, if a low-income family made 1500 dollars per month they would spend about 450 dollars for rent each month. The government covers the rest. This program can truly help those in need, but the idea is to spread those who are on the program over a wide geographic area not concentrate them. We already have Section 8 families in our community, but they are dispersed.

So why is this happening and why now? With the housing market being in doubt there are many people waiting out the market in hopes to buy when the market starts to go up again. Other people cannot afford a mortgage as the new lending criteria prevents them from qualifying. So what do these people do? They rent. With Utah’s strong economy, there are more people moving to the valley in search of jobs and many will opt to rent for a variety of reasons. All of this combined has pushed monthly rents up 10% in the last year alone. The rental market is starting to look really attractive to a lot of investors. I would not be surprised to see a lot of developments pop up in various communities that are high density and haven’t been integrated properly. That is why people need to be more involved at the local government level about what happens in their community. I believe the Sunstone residents (just to the west of Daybreak) would agree with me as they seem to have attended the relevant meetings and have even appealed the approval of Two Creeks. Hopefully this mess will be stopped before it is too late.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Utah Obesity and Daybreak

The University of Utah recently released a study that compares rates of obesity with where people live. This study concluded that people who live in older neighborhoods are significantly thinner than residents of the newer suburbs. Most of these older neighborhoods were built before 1950, but considering the amount of building during the depression and the war, you will find that many of these neighborhoods had homes built in the first and second decade of last century. It was during this time that mixed-use communities were still legal before the separate zoning of commercial and residential. A prime example is the Yale / Harvard area of Salt Lake City. With village centers at 13th South and 17th East, 15th South and 15th East, and another nearby at 9th South and 9th East, most people can walk to the necessities of life. Schools are right in the middle of the neighborhood as well.

This study adds to the growing amount of literature linking obesity to non-walkable suburbs. People find it easy to say Americans are lazy and gluttonous, but the fact is that many U.S. communities simply are not designed for walking. Utah suburbs discourage walking because they are not very safe for pedestrians. Simple attributes such as sidewalks or traffic calming devices are not present. Another discouraging factor is when walking in a cul-de-sac you literally have to walk through a maze of secondary streets to reach most destinations. The only real direct route is to cut through yards. In the traditionally designed suburb, most destinations are not even within an easy walking distance of the homes. All of these factors play a role in discouraging pedestrians. This new study indicates that this active lifestyle is simply easier to achieve in communities that are walkable.

Virtually everything American society has done for the past 100 years has made it easier for us to be lazy. Early concerns about this were shown by the government with fitness and health campaigns being introduced in the early fifties. Currently, it is estimated that 17.1% of US kids Ages 2-19 Are Overweight. This sedentary lifestyle that correlates with obesity does not necessarily stop in childhood. This lifestyle is carried on to adulthood where almost two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese. It is passed down through the generations, but this is not done solely by genetics. If you are overweight your child has a 40% greater chance of being overweight or obese. With so many opportunities to exercise in Daybreak, it is time that parents be an example to their children and lead a healthy lifestyle.

While Daybreak is cited in this study as being a model of healthy residential development, the study is only referring to the Daybreak that is planned. In an earlier post I talked about walkability in Daybreak. Daybreak is currently not a walkable community. This status will only change once the village center is up and running. With the giant district behemoth shopping center outside the gates, it will be difficult to entice residents out of their cars to visit local shops.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Salt Lake Parade of Homes

The Salt Lake Parade of Homes officially opens this weekend and four of the thirty homes are in Daybreak. I have always enjoyed attending the parade of homes because you can find so many great ideas for when you remodel or build a home. Of course, if you talk to a friend of mine that attended the parade last year, then you will hear a little depression in the tone he uses to explain how great the homes were. He gets depressed because he compares these fully-upgraded homes to his humble abode. My suggestion: do not go unless you are truly looking to buy or are looking for ideas.

Daybreak has participated in the parade in the past, but the “star” home has never been located in Daybreak. The “star” home is the 10,000 square ft mansion that has luxury amenities and a great room so big that you could play basketball in it and fit 20 to 30 spectators. However, the Daybreak homes do provide a breath of fresh air when compared to the rest of the homes in the parade. First and foremost they do not feature a beige stucco exterior. In contrast they feature classic architecture with reasonable space defined for human scale. Massive two-story entryways that dominate the facade are not found in Daybreak.

Daybreak is a community that will let you do very little to the outside of your home. HOA restrictions are fairly strict. However, the inside of your Daybreak home is where personal style can really be displayed. Whether you want leopard print wallpaper or distinctly traditional decoration in your front room is completely within your discretion. So pop into a few of the homes featured in the Parade of Homes. While most of the exteriors look the same I have found that the interiors are finely decorated by interior designers who do not utilize a mass production style equal to the exterior. These interiors are well worth the time and expense.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why There is Conflict in Daybreak

Some years ago when I was in college I attended the opening night of a summer blockbuster movie. This movie was a sequel and my expectations for this movie were high. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the previous editions of the series and expected more of the same. I expected the same authenticity, quality acting, special effects, and intensity. My excitement increased as the time drew closer to opening day. I watched the teaser, the trailer, and I even found a segment on the internet about the show. But when the final credits to the movie started to roll down the screen I felt a little cheated. It seemed as though the image created by the previews of the movie did not hold up to what the movie actually delivered. My expectations were created by the previous movies and the previews and teasers that advertised the show.

I realized that the advertising material for the show promised me one thing, but the actual movie delivered something completely different. To my surprise I found that one of my friends absolutely loved the show. I asked him if he had seen the previews before the movie and he claimed that he had not. This made me think a little bit more about conflict and expectations. I found that any time that I was in disagreement with someone or something, I had differing expectations from what was delivered or what others expected me to deliver. I felt this was particularly true with people. I even found that one of my favorite authors had written about it: "Expectation is the root of all heartache." - William Shakespeare.

With this in mind I have come to the conclusion that differing expectations is at the heart of conflict between Kennecott Land and other parties. The large amount of stakeholders who have an interest in Daybreak almost dictates that there will be conflict. These stake holders include Rio Tinto and their shareholders, residents of Daybreak, future residents of Daybreak, the City of South Jordan, New Urbanists, the Daybreak HOA, future commercial and industrial tenants, Salt Lake County government, the State of Utah government, the Jordan School District, Utah Transit Authority, various home builders, various contractors, the immediate surrounding community, Envision Utah, Peter Calthorpe and Associates, and various others. Kennecott Land is trying accommodate or at the least liaise with all of these stakeholders. All of them have somewhat differing expectations. To add to the complexity, all of the expectations held by these stakeholders do not match the expectations of key decision makers within Kennecott Land and Rio Tinto. In my opinion expectations are never quite the same. However, closing the gap between these expectations leads to less conflict and Kennecott Land tries to do this every day. So how well has Kennecott Land been able to do this? Let's look at several examples.

While developing Daybreak, Kennecott Land has had to work with an assortment of municipalities for zoning and planning purposes. The City of South Jordan was approached with the Daybreak plan years ago. From what I have heard this relationship has gone fairly well except for the obvious clash with regards to the Boyer development. Again, I think that this was a major difference in expectations. Salt Lake County has also worked with Kennecott Land for a few years on the plan for the West Bench. In this case, a major difference in expectations has terminated the joint planning team that was working on the West Bench project. In an earlier post, I wrote that this disagreement was the result of a lack of communication and creative bargaining.

Local residents of Daybreak can also attest that they have had many expectations that Kennecott Land has not delivered. In fact a poll conducted on Daybreak indicates that about two-thirds of the homeowners in Daybreak are not satisfied with how Kennecott Land has addressed their concerns. The Beach Club on Oquirrh Lake was another one of those expectations. Residents still seem confused about the applicable laws that have blocked the fruition of the project. Essentially the project was put on the map of Daybreak and served as a teaser for future amenities. Another more recent point of conflict has been the landscaping of Founders Village. More conflict has recently come about the possible pool to be built in Founders Village as well. However, many of the expectations homeowners have been fulfilled and in some cases have been exceeded by Kennecott Land. Amenities that were never promised openly have popped up in Eastlake and expectations have been exceeded in a few other important areas.

One of the main reasons for these differing expectations is Kennecott Land ’s tendency to operate and develop plans with little or no dissemination of these plans to the community or residents. I can see why Kennecott operates this way as their business requires a certain amount of discretion, but this policy is the main reason why they have so many conflicts. If you ask the home builders of Kennecott Land’s plans they will tell you that they are likely the last people to know. Residents usually hear of changes and announcements through the community website (which is down right now) and newsletters, but as you can see with the conflicts above the communication is not thorough enough. In short, if Kennecott Land would like to ease some of the contentions inside and outside of the community they need to communicate their expectations more and solicit the specific expectations of various stakeholders. Residents and other stakeholders have expectations of the future of the Village Center , Oquirrh Lake , housing density, future amenities, and many other aspects of the community. While these expectations will never completely match, getting them as close as possible will lighten the friction between Kennecott Land and the various stakeholders of Daybreak.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Future of New Urbanism in Utah

I received an e-mail from a reader not too long ago about my stance on New Urbanism. He insisted that New Urbanism did not have any place in the Utah suburbs. He further suggested that the movement was just a planning fad that would end with only a couple developments in the Salt Lake Valley carrying the banner of New Urbanism. In response, I have decided to post a picture of New Urban developments in the Salt Lake Valley. They are located throughout the valley in all four quadrants branching out from the city center of Salt Lake. While a couple already exist, the majority of these developments are either in the planning or construction phases. As you can see, New Urbanism is not a trend that will go away any time soon and considering the movement has been gaining momentum since the 80s, I do not think it is short term.

In looking at where development is occurring in Utah, the fringes of the community are still popular, but there is a growing trend that is the result of the energy crises. This trend uses transit as a lifeline to the surrounding communities. Numerous TODs (Transportation Oriented Developments) have started already and many more are planned. Any empty space near a proposed TRAX station has become prime real estate for these communities.

Many more New Urban projects are starting all over the state. Ogden, Layton, Farmington, Woods Cross, Park City, Heber, Lehi, Orem, Mapleton, Richfield, Cedar City, and St. George all have projects on the drawing board or being constructed. Of course, none of these projects match the scale of Daybreak or the West Bench which has many more communities planned, but this is clearly the new direction in development. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, if anyone would like to inform me of other communities planned or being built in Utah, then please share. This list is merely what I could gather via the internet.

As for whether or not it belongs in Utah, I would like to refer to another comment that I received: "..let the free market reign." In Utah our demand is being pushed by our demographics. People want to start a family and own a place instead of rent. With housing and land prices going through the roof people need affordable choices. These choices need to save the owners money and time. With the option to ride mass transit, lower utility bills, and maintenance-free options, you can stretch your budget much further. New Urbanism will continue in Utah by choice. This choice has already been seen in the marketplace for housing and will continue well into the future.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Housing Density and NIMBYs

Housing density has been and will remain the most common disagreement with regards to new development in existing towns. The politics surrounding this issue can be fierce with strong emotions on all sides. The battle over density usually starts when a developer purchases land with plans to build medium to high-density residential. One resident will hear about the pending project and will rally the troops. This person is usually referred to as a NIMBY which stands for Not In My Back Yard. This neighborhood watchdog will then broadcast the message that an evil developer is trying to profit with a new development and does not care about its impact on the surrounding community.

This was the case with Daybreak and many other new urban communities across the nation. The question that I would like to ask most NIMBYs is this: how did you inform yourself about the topic of density and its effects? Some of them call on first-hand experience. The neighbors near many developments complain about the traffic that the development is causing. Of course while the infrastructure that will accompany the development is only starting these neighbors pass judgment by what they see immediately. This short-term, subjectivity should not be taken as fact, but many NIMBY’s present it as fact. Many NIMBYs that I have talked to use the words “its just common sense” all too often when trying to explain their information source. While I feel that common sense is a valid tool that cannot be underestimated, I also feel that it is sometimes confused with myth.

These myths are traditional in my opinion. Passed down through the generations and are added to with each new generation. The history of where these myths started reaches back as far as the 1800s. The US started as an agricultural nation and transitioned into an industrial nation with factories and mass production. This transition was accompanied by waves of immigration from Europe. Each new wave contained different ethnic groups that were overtly discriminated against. This discrimination clustered these immigrants into densely populated areas with the least desirable jobs. This segregation along socio-economic status lines resulted in the materialization of many of the myths that are associated with density.

Fast forward to the age of suburbia that started after World War II. Being enabled to travel long distances via automobile, people could more economically live in the suburbs and further segregate themselves. Zoning use ordinances specified separation of land use and from then on commercial could no longer coexist with residential. In many cases this meant separation of density as well. Fast forward again to the 70s and 80s where the government decided to build “project housing” which not only segregated people of lower socio-economic status, but actually concentrated them. Many of these were an immediate failure with rampant crime and social problems. The images created by these projects reverberated with further intensity in the media particularly in movies and television. The “inner city” was a dangerous crime ridden area only suitable for those “other” people. All of these events perpetuated the myths of density with a simple philosophy: guilty by association.

So what is the real story behind density? The best way to answer this question is to address the myths often cited by NIMBYs one at a time.

Myth: Density will lower the value of my home. Many things can lower the value of a home, but density is not by itself one of them. In fact researchers have conducted many studies on single-family housing that is located in proximity to dense residential developments. The conclusion of these studies is that there is not a significant difference in the appreciation rate of those single family homes located in close proximity to high residential developments and those single-family homes located further away. In fact the percentage of appreciation is 2.9 versus 2.7 percent. This is not a significant difference. However, if you have an apartment building located next to your home that is 5 stories tall, over 30 years old, the grass is browning, windows are broken, loud music is blaring from the windows, and the paint is literally peeling like a sunburn, then this will obviously lower the value of your home. Of course, if a single family residence was in the same state, then it would lower the value of your home as well.

Another myth is that dense housing will create more traffic. Obviously if you add more cars to an area you will have more traffic. However, research has proven that higher density housing decreases traffic per person. Single family detached homes average 10 car trips a day. Compare that to the 6.3 car trips per day made by people living in townhomes and condominiums. Density is also needed for public transportation to be feasible. The Mid-Jordan TRAX line would not extend to South Jordan at all if not for the density that will make up the Daybreak Town Center. This mode of transportation will bring an additional choice for transportation that is likely to be used considering gas prices. Daybreak further mitigates traffic by having most necessities within walking distance which encourages the two-legged commute.

The most prominent myth about density is that it creates crime. This claim is absolutely false. Numerous studies have been conducted and the conclusion is that per population, crime is the same in higher density housing as it is in single family housing. The perception of crime is perpetuated when the observer holds an entire apartment complex to the same standard as one single family home. So when three juveniles from the same complex commit a crime and the police show up at the apartment complex three times in one year, it is considered “crime ridden.” On the other hand if the police show up for a juvenile in a single family residence this is considered an “anomaly.” Crime research indicates that crimes increase in accordance with certain socioeconomic indicators such as education attainment, unemployment (particularly of males), and the poverty rate.

The final main myth is that dense residential housing is unattractive and is only desired by lower-income households. Considering the changing demographics and preferences of consumers, this assumption is not based in reality. This market appeals to empty-nester and first-time home buyers tremendously. As with anything in real estate it is all about location, location, location. You can buy a single-family home in some locations for half of the price of a town home in south Jordan. Considering that the average income earner in Utah currently cannot purchase high-density housing in many areas, I would have to say that it is not just the poor that are moving into condos and townhomes. If the housing has a good design and is well maintained it will attract quality residents who care about and participate in their community.

So who is winning this battle, the NIMBYs or the New Urbanists? The New Urbanists have the clear lead, but this depends greatly on where you live. In North Dakota and Oklahoma , the NIMBYs are holding their ground. If you live in Utah , Colorado , Texas , Florida , or California on the other hand, the New Urbanists are definitely ahead of the game. Since its inception in the early 80s, New Urbanism has grown at a phenomenal rate in most states. Locally, more and more new urban developments are popping up. They are called by different names such as smart growth or transit oriented developments, but they are the same with respect to density.

In fact, South Jordan will shortly be surrounded by these developments. With the Herriman Towne Center , Daybreak, Jordan River , and other future communities coming to light, New Urbanism will also be the future of development locally. A number of strong forces demand this density. Energy costs demand homes that are more efficient, smaller, easier to take care of, and closer to the necessities of life. Businesses now want to locate their operations in communities that are vibrant, walkable, and have transit nearby. Density is the vehicle that has to be used to accomplish these attributes. The government wants density as it allows for less expenditure on infrastructure per tax payer. Finally, people are demanding more density and they are voting with their feet. The success of dense New Urban communities speaks volumes about this demand.

Density will have its place in the future of South Jordan, but if not planned correctly it can cause problems. Density cannot be thrown in a community in a half hazard manner in order for the developer to make a buck. Instead it should be planned and integrated correctly according to transect planning and community needs. These new developments must feature good designs that are sensitive to the context of the surrounding community. These designs and features must be maintained by a community organization such as a HOA. I can see why many NIMBYs are opposed to housing density, but assumptions should not be made based on false associations of the past. To those NIMBYs who will fight till their last breath any development that has more density that 2 units per acre consider if your beliefs about density are actually true. Also consider if your energy might be better spent ensuring that these developments are integrated properly instead of trying to ban them all together. Density is here to stay. Instead of a battle of how many units per acre, we need to ensure that these units are built, maintained, and located in a fashion that will enhance the community for all of us.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Traffic In Daybreak

With the increase in the planned density at Daybreak concerns have surfaced about the increase in traffic. The current plans for Daybreak call for over 20,000 homes to be located within the community. All of these residents will have cars. Most of them will have more than one along with more than one member of the family to drive them. If you do the math on these numbers you can easily see the thousands of car trips that will be necessary for each family daily. However, these calculations are based off of the traditional suburban model of traffic. Daybreak follows the principles of New Urbanism and studies have shown that there is a significant difference in the amount of traffic generated by these diametrically opposed planning schemes.

New Urbanism improves transportation choice and reduces traffic speeds. These New Urban design features tend to reduce per capita automobile ownership and use. While most individual features have modest impacts on total travel, their effects are synergistic resulting in significant total reductions in vehicle use. Research has proved that residents that live in well-designed New Urbanist neighborhoods with good walkability, mixed land use, connected streets, and local services tend to drive 20-35% less than residents in automobile dependent areas. Another study has concluded that these residents take 305.5% more walking trips than residents of conventionally designed suburbs. While these benefits have not materialized immediately in Daybreak, most of the research suggests that these benefits will not be realized until developments are "made whole" with the majority of basic needs within a short distance of homes.

In addition to the traffic reducing affects of mixed-use communities, Daybreak offers a variety of traffic calming structural features in its design. The most noticable of these are the two roundabouts that deflect traffic from two fairly high-speed parkways that lead to Daybreak from Bangerter Highway. These arterial roundabouts distribute traffic in a more efficient manner than 4-way intersections and slow traffic down upon their entrance to Daybreak. Recent studies have also proven that roundabouts significantly reduce vehicle crashes compared to intersections.

Another traffic calming feature is the neckdowns that are placed at most intersections in Daybreak. Neckdowns are curb extensions at intersections that reduce the roadway width and tighten the curb radii at the corner. Again this feature slows traffic, but it also decreases the distance that a pedestrian must travel to cross the street and makes the pedestrian more visible. There are other traffic calming measures, but these two are the most effective.

Even with all of these measures, there are still drivers that choose to speed down the street, racing to their destination. This practice has irked quite a few residents in the community including the Daybreak Daily website author Scoop. He decided to do somethign about it and worked with the City of South Jordan to monitor the traffic on a particularly problematic street in Daybreak where drivers tend to speed. The street in question is Kestrel Rise. One of the main problems with this street is that when driving South you drive down hill. This obviously increases speed and many do not slow down until they are only feet away from a stop sign. While these studies gave an average speed of 25 mph, this is simply an average. The traffic monitoring devices registered speeds of up to 50 mph on this street. Of course speeds like this did not happen every day, but speeds of 35 to 40 mph are fairly common depending on the day of the week.

What additional options are there to preven cars from accelerating to 50 mph in an area where kids play? A few design features come to mind. Traffic slowing features such as humps or speed bumps as some people call them. These features actually come in a large variety and are one of the most effective design features in slowing traffic speed. There is a downside to this though. Cost. You would think that making a bump in the road would not be very expensive, but in this case a properly designed bump can cost thousands of dollars. The question that keeps popping up in my mind is this: Isn't a few thousand dollars worth it when a simple design feature can (and probably will someday) save the life of a child? Especially considering this street is adjacent to an elementary school.

I would deem most streets in Daybreak to be safe. This safety is due to the design features that were likely planned from the very beginning. However, no plan is perfect and some adjustments need to be made here and there. While speed humps may not be the answer, planners and the community need to do something about people driving 35 to 50 miles per hour past homes full of children and an elementary school.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Daybreak Village Center

The plans for Daybreak seem to have been in a constant state of flux. Village centers that once appeared on old maps cannot be seen on the new maps. The timing for the village center has also changed. "We would like to have a retail village center built and occupied by the summer of 2005." indicated one executive in an interview when Daybreak was just getting started. If he only knew what the Boyer company had in mind for South Jordan. The change in timing was most likely in response to The District development. New businesses in Daybreak would not be able to compete in the shadow of this retail giant. The timetable was pushed even further back as of late. The good news is that the first phase of the Village Center will arrive this summer. This phase includes the Kennecott Corporate Center. The first part of the 45-acre village center that will include 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, an additional 60,000 square feet of office space and between 475 and 525 high-density multi-family residential housing units. The second phase, which will arrive anywhere between the fall of this year to the summer of 2009, will consist of the anchor grocery store and assortment of shops that address everyday necessities. You can see the general layout in the picture below: Finally, the third phase will be the afore mentioned high-density residential buildings and more commercial. This residential area will probably be the most controversial part of Daybreak because of its density. However, it is this density that will enable Daybreak to become the new urban town that Kennecott has envisioned. As I said before the execution of the details in this new addition to Daybreak will be critical. Kennecott has to solve a major dilemma. They need to make the transition from a relatively low density neighborhood to a high density village center utterly seamless. Kennecott had better put all the necessary talent and thought needed into this venture or they might endanger the vision that they have worked so hard to create. This area is being closely watched by many citizens especially those who live on Topcrest. Citizens will always refer back to this part of Daybreak if this is handled improperly. Possibly saying, "Oh no, not another Topcrest."

Kennecott Land indicated, "On the commercial side, there will be seven individual buildings as a start, there will be more than that ultimately" The character of the buildings is different than what I had imagined. It doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the architecture in daybreak with the exception of the visitor's center. After looking at the Emmigration Market in the Harvard/Yale area (the area that Daybreak is modeled after) I found some similarities in the design. However, if you look at the traditional main streets in the towns of Utah you will find two to three story buildings made of brick. While I'm sure that costs and efficiency are factors in the design decisions I do not think that the illustrations distributed so far resemble anything traditional in Utah.

One building that is definitely not traditional is the Kennecott Corporate Building. It is impressive as a class A office building with LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), but I feel that it is out of scale with its surroundings. The building would be better suited in the town center. (Of course I may feel differently once the village center is built out) I do have to give credit to the contractors who designed the building. The systems in the building, solar panels, parking, all seem to be designed well. As Kennecott brags, "they are truly state of the art."

"The village center has a very high emphasis on architecture, interesting buildings, interesting locations. It's not about creating the most efficient, cost effective box. We set out to create a place and the architecture was driven by that goal. The office was intended to complement the surrounding area as opposed to changing it."

I agree and disagree with this statement. As I said before I do not think that some of the designs indicated in the renderings fit into the current community. However, there have been many new urbanist communities that through traditionalism have become what they fear the most: homogeneous. Several communities in Canada come to mind. Sure all of the homes as individual units are impressive, but if you put them all together you are inundated with the homogeneous architecture. Variety is needed, but this could be the equivalent of a jazzy saxophone soloist in the middle of the Utah Symphony.

Another aspect of the town center that concerns me are the town/row homes that will be built next to the roundabout as you enter Daybreak. These will be the first up-close buildings that many people will see when they enter Daybreak. From what I can see right now, these buildings look to be urban contemporary similar to the new Garbett row homes in North Shore Village. Is this the first thing you want people to see upon entering our neighborhood? No, not really. Even though it seems to be part of the Village Center it is technically on the edge of Daybreak where everything else is classical architecture from early last century. Modern will simply not present a cohesive design, even if it is "Daybreak-ish." In my opinion variety is good, but this part needs to have the flavor of Founders and Eastlake combined.

One part of the plan that I am truly looking forward to is the urban park that is mentioned here:

“Within the Main Street plan, we are designing an urban park that provides elements such as seating, pop jet fountains, an outdoor fire pit, sun shades and music,” says Kaufman. “Above all, the Village Center is positioned between great neighborhood parks, Oquirrh Lake and a variety of area trails.
Additionally, all of the greenery on top of the buildings is welcome in my book. It is rare that you see that level of detail for buildings in Utah. From what I understand, this greenery will not only make the buildings look better, but will also reduce the heat island effect caused by large buildings and concrete. It might even help conserve energy and thus reduce utility bills.

Daybreak's village center will make or break the community in my opinion. The sheer expense, the entire village center will cost $150 million, along with the fact that it will be in immediate competition with The District from the start make this Village Center a "must win" endeavor for Kennecott. The plans and time tables for Daybreak are always changing. Plans are never perfect and a little adaptability is crucial, but these changes will create the heart of Daybreak and therefore must be free of major defects.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Oquirrh Lake

Oquirrh Lake is the central organizing feature and amenity in Daybreak. It was named after the Oquirrh Mountains (pronounced O-Ker) that are just to the East of Daybreak. The name Oquirrh came from local Native American tribes. In the Goshute language, Oquirrh means "wooded mountain" while in the Ute language the word means "The Shining Mountains" or "Glowing." Many people believe they named the mountains this because sunlight strikes the Oquirrhs first in the morning before anything else in the valley.

Oquirrh lake was designed and created by a variety of firms and has been a massive undertaking. 35 million cubic feet of earth was moved and used in other areas of the development. Once they had dug a massive hole they constructed a dam and lined the lake with three layers: High Density Polyethelene to keep the water from going into the ground, gravel, and silt to make a natural lake bottom. Twenty-five thousand tons of rock were also put in place to create a shore line and habitat for the ecosystem.

The lake is home to minnows, bluegill, channel cats, large-mouth bass and eventually trout. While there has been some rumors about who will stock and maintain the lake in the future, I have not heard any definitive announcements on the subject. The water that these fish live in comes from Utah Lake and natural runoff. As these two sources are not the cleanest, a computerized filtration system cleans the water to acceptable levels. The most noticeable residents of the lake are the ducks and geese. These birds love the lake even though the lake is designed to detract them from staying for long periods of time. I think the main reason that the ducks and geese come is because kids feed them despite the signs posted around the lake. The lake isn't bad when compared to the pond at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. If you go there at this time of year you will see hundreds if not thousands of these birds wandering the banks.

One question that I get asked a lot is why residents are not allowed to swim in the lake. I have heard people make up a lot of reasons why, but the real reason is that the liability for Kennecott Land would be enormous. Considering the current legal climate I don't blame them. The reason that they seem to state publicly is that it would inhibit the ecosystem. Which is also true, but I believe this to be a secondary reason. All residents are allowed to operate non-motorized watercraft on the lake. Canoes and row boats are common on the lake. I also like the idea of being able to walk a few blocks from my doorstep to go fishing. Overall it is a great amenity for Daybreak.

One of the controversies surrounding the lake is the rumor that Kennecott Land will not build the lake to be as big as the originally planned 85 acres. It seems that future plans have relegated the lake to a smaller 65 acres with the planned third phase being eliminated. This third phase of the lake is an extremely complicated design. It would stretch an arm of water toward the Town Center. This arm would slither through the urban environment much like the canals of Venice, Italy or Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This is truly a grand idea, but would definitely be difficult to implement. The possible reduction in size is an issue that many residents feel strongly about. However, Kennecott Land will ultimately decide on the size of the final product.

The island in the middle however will become a reality in a couple of years. Apparently the homes constructed on this piece of real estate will range from semi-custom to completely custom homes. Waterfront property is hard to come by in Utah so I imagine these homes will fetch a price premium beyond what we have seen so far in Daybreak. I have talked to a few people who claim that several home builders have already been contacted by Kennecott Land to build these custom homes. Needless to say these homes will be the showcase homes of Daybreak.