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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The West Bench

Many people in Salt Lake County know about the Daybreak development in South Jordan, but how many know of Kennecott's future plans? Most people have no idea what lay in store for the regional community. Kennecott has very specific plans for what they are calling the West bench. In 2005, Kennecott contracted the services of Calthorpe Associates to design a long term community plan for the West bench. This plan is quite ambitious. Kennecott has planned a string of communities that are linked by transit corridors and have large amounts of open space. These communities will all follow the principles of urban design, but will all be unique according to Kennecott. Many of the village centers will be located deep within the Oquirrh Mountains and one will be a ski resort. Other ambitious plans include a college campus, three reservoirs, a trail system, and three town centers. These now unincorporated areas will become cities in the next 50 years. I personally like this level of planning because it prevents unplanned suburban sprawl. But I wonder if this plan will actually come to fruition.

Kennecott Land is owned by the Rio Tinto group. This massive conglomerate is an international mining company based in London, England. Like most corporations, Rio Tinto has a broad declaration of environmental sustainability and in most cases that I have seen, that is true. But how long will Rio Tinto own Kennecott Land? According to Businessweek,

The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation Fortune 500 or its equivalent is between 40 and 50 years. This figure is based on most surveys of corporate births and deaths. A full one-third of the companies listed in the 1970 Fortune 500, for instance, had vanished by 1983-acquired, merged, or broken to pieces.
What will happen to these plans if a different company, one that determines new urbanism is not profitable, buys Kennecott Land? We can only wait and see. Hopefully, no matter what company owns the rights to the land on the West bench, they will consider sustainable growth as the only viable option.

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