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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Daybreak's New Ride

Utah Transit Authority has put in an order for 77 new Siemens S70 train cars for TRAX. These modern looking train cars represent the largest order that Siemens has contracted in the United States so far. While testing of the S70s will start at the end of the year, they will be in place in time for the opening of the Mid-Jordan TRAX line. So when the Daybreak North and South stations finally open, expect to see these trains loading the passengers.

The big advantage of these trains is that they will actually be able to achieve their top speed of 65 miles per hour as many of the stations along the Mid-Jordan TRAX line are far enough apart to allow the speed. Not to mention that the S70s can accelerate much faster than the current TRAX trains being used.

Other positive features of the S70 include:

  • Easier to board as the train is on platform level wich eliminates the need for ramps and steps and allows commuters who are disabled to board with ease.
  • More room - Wider Aisles and larger spaces allow for wheelchair access and room to fit your bike.
  • A variety of seating arrangements including open space, bench seating and regular seating.
In the end all of these features translate into a faster commute in a train with large windows and plenty of space. Commuting in this S70 to and from work while surfing the internet on the train wi-fi could definitely appeal to many commuters who endure freeway traffic each day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Jordan School District Split

The Jordan School District (covers most of the southern part of Salt Lake County including Daybreak) will split into two districts on July 1, 2009. The whole affair resembles a long and tedious divorce process which divided up assets and kids. Only in this divorce, 1 billion dollars in assets, hundreds of millions in liabilities, and just over 81,000 students were divided between what will be the Canyons School District and the new Jordan School District.

While this possibility had been in the minds of many people for years, the issue was voted on in the 2007 election in which the Eastern half of the district voted to secede. Many people in the Western half of the district felt that this was unfair as it greatly affected them and their children, yet they did not get to vote on the matter. The voters in the Eastern half of the district wanted to secede because they felt like they were subsidizing the construction of West-side schools when the schools in their own neighborhood were old and in need of repair. In many ways this conflict seemed to follow the classic East vs West theme.

The question then became: how do we split up the assets and liabilities. This was the major sticking point between the East and West side transition teams. When reading news articles about this issue I could not help but think that people were only thinking about money and not about the students. First and foremost was the question of how to value assets. Do you assign a monetary value based on the market? Do you just assets according to geography? Both sides had experts give opinions that weighed heavily in their favor with a biased view of the assets. For example, the West side transition team assessed the following values:

  • West side schools value: $518,483,767.00
  • East side schools value: $574,639,271.00
While the East side transition team assessed the following values:
  • West side schools value: $778,364,746.00
  • East side schools value: $399,218,522.00
Quite a large discrepancy if you ask me. The arbitrators agreed and felt that both assessments were not reliable. Instead they considered qualitative aspects in that the East side has a larger tax base and the West side has and will have a rapidly growing student population. To that end, to put both districts in a viable financial position they found the following:

  • Liabilities will be divided up 58% for the East side and 42% for the West side (This according to the state legislature)
  • Schools will be divided up on a geographic basis
  • Other assets will be divided up according to student population (59% West side and 41% East side)
The specifics are still left up to the transition teams, but now they have binding rules that they must follow. In the end, I think that this decision brings about the best possible scenario for both school districts to prosper and for students to continue to receive the same quality of eduction that they have been receiving. The best part of this split is that now the decisions for the school district are more localized. However, this could very well mean an increase in taxes for both the West and East sides.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Daybreak Place: Apartments in Daybreak, Utah

Kennecott Land will soon be developing Daybreak Place, a 315 unit apartment complex situated North of Daybreak Parkway and just West of the Rio Tinto Corporate Center. While I am not sure about the timeline for the project, I am fairly sure that construction will be in conjunction with TRAX and the village center. Daybreak Place will consist of eight 2 and 3-story apartment buildings with 165 tuck-under garages.

From the beginning Daybreak was planned to include higher-density structures such as apartments and condominium complexes. This is part of the concept of New Urbanism and is necessary to facilitate other amenities coming to Daybreak such as TRAX. However, I would have to review Kennecott Land's plans for this complex more thoroughly before forming my opinion on this new development. Integrating dense development into what is currently a suburb community definitely has its challenges. Given this limited information, I am not sure that this plan meets those challenges effectively.

From what I can see this new complex will have some amenities of its own including a pool and what looks to be a club house. I see this as a definite plus as these amenities ensure that additional stress is not placed on existing amenities. From the picture of the structure you can see the varied facade that counteracts the fact that the building itself is quit large. While this design does not look too bad, I have definitely seen better. I wonder if it has that "daybreakish" look that they seem to strive after?

While I am adopting a wait-and-see attitude for this complex it is definitely better than the majority of similar developments in the valley. For one, it does seem to follow the transect style plan of Daybreak as it is near TRAX and close to the Town Center. Another feature that separates this level of density from the less dense residential to the South is Daybreak Parkway.

From my standpoint this complex could serve as a transition residence for many people who want to move to Daybreak, but cannot quite afford a home of their own. Maybe Kennecott will set up an exception to the time period of the lease if the renter decides to buy a home in Daybreak. This complex could serve a vital function as many people who have had their credit destroyed by foreclosure could still find an apartment in a community such as Daybreak.
With TRAX literally down the street I imagine this complex will attract single working professionals as well.

From what I can see the apartments will be managed by a company called Western National Group (WNG). WNG is a large California based multifamily development firm that covers all aspects from planning to managing. This firm has built and managed tens of thousands of apartment units across the U.S. While I cannot confirm at this time, I have heard that rent for these apartments will range from $600 for a single bedroom apartment to $1200 for a three bedroom unit.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Utah To Grant $6,000 to Home Buyers

Earlier today the Utah State Legislature passed the Housing Relief Restricted Special Revenue Fund. This fund grants $6,000 to individuals who purchase a home in Utah. There are a few stipulations:

  • The home must be a "newly constructed" residence which includes all homes that have never been occupied.
  • Income limits apply as you will not qualify for this grant if you as an individual make over $75,000 or as a couple make over $150,000 annually.
  • The number of grants is limited and are available on a first come first served basis. Approximately 1666 grants are available (10 million dollars)
  • This grant is for any home buyer (as opposed to first-time home buyers exclusively)
This money can be used as a down payment or for closing costs. $6,000 by itself would probably not do much to force potential home buyers off of the fence, but when you consider all of the other factors ($8,000 tax credit, low interest rates, builder incentives) I think that this will definitely push a few buyers off of the fence. Especially in a time where the down-payment seems to be the biggest hurdle as the credit crunch continues.

For Daybreak, I think that you will see a definite uptick in the market for new homes as builders with more affordable options will be selling some inventory. As for how this will affect the existing home market, I can't be sure. There are great deals to be found in foreclosures and short sales.

To apply for your grant, visit the Utah Housing Corp website.