What happened with the Tech Center? A Summit County councilor offers insight into the negotiations and potential next steps.
Summit County worked closely with the Tech Center developer to try to reach a deal that would work for both the community and Dakota Pacific’s bottom line. Now that’s fallen apart, and officials share details about the negotiations and what might come next.
Summit County Councilor Chris Robinson saw the same thing as many others did who witnessed nearly 1,000 people attend a public input session about the proposal to build a new neighborhood at Kimball Junction: The community overwhelmingly opposed it.
And he told KPCW there was no way the project could go forward, given the stiff headwinds of community sentiment and a lack of support on the council.
“The proverbial writing was on the wall,” Robinson said. “You know, the groundswell of opposition, that’s no way to start a project.”
Robinson is in a unique position to comment on the negotiations. He is a land developer himself and was a member of a subcommittee, along with Councilor Doug Clyde, that worked closely with Dakota Pacific Real Estate.
The county was evaluating the plan in some form for more than two years. In that time, some aspirational aspects came and went, like an underground transit center linked into a bus rapid transit network and a park that stretched across S.R. 224.
But Robinson said, during those many months, the core of the proposal stayed the same.
“We have basically been tweaking the edges, trying to get a more robust development agreement, trying to get some money for transportation. But the essence of what was originally proposed, clear back whenever, you know, with the Planning Commission, was 1,100 units of housing and a combination of these other uses. And that has not changed. In other words, the developer has been firm in saying this is what we need,” Robinson said. “Well, now that's been rejected.”
What will go on the land is yet to be seen. The approved Tech Center plan from 2008 is essentially a group of office buildings spread among surface parking lots. Dakota Pacific says it has a deal in place to build an 85,000-square-foot medical office building that conforms to that agreement.
Council Chair Glenn Wright suggested the next project should retain some key tenets of the Tech Center idea — like diversifying the local economy — but also include some of the residential space from the new proposal to help alleviate the county’s housing shortage.
He said the 2008 Tech Center deal has significant flaws, including the demand it would create for housing when there isn’t much available nearby. Wright said the Tech Center, if it was built, would likely lead to more people driving to work there, increasing traffic and environmental issues.
“If someone brought that original project to me now, while it may have been an interesting idea 13 years ago, for me right now, if I was asked to vote on it, it would be a firm ‘No,’” Wright said. “I like the concept of a mixed-use development at this particular location. This is the perfect place for that type of development in western Summit County.”
Robinson agreed there are elements of the Tech Center project that should be incorporated into a new proposal. He said that proposal, while it should still include a residential component, should not focus on housing so heavily.
“If you do the math, now, there was, about 3/4 of it was residential by square footage. And so it was, you know, it was mostly a residential project, with these other uses as the remaining 25%. I think that ratio is going to have to change a lot,” Robinson said.
He echoed Wright’s concerns that the proposed hotel might create more of a need for affordable housing for the hotel’s employees than the developers were proposing to offset by building new units.
The council held its final meeting of 2021 on Wednesday. Robinson said he hoped significant progress could be made on a new proposal in the first quarter of 2022, which ends in March. He and Councilor Roger Armstrong — a steadfast opponent of the development — have agreed to participate in a subcommittee with the developers.