Murray 2023: A new eraJan 05, 2023 02:31PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Brassy metal sheeting encompasses the new city council chamber. The new city hall will open for business this spring. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)
New buildings, different faces, and freshly moved-in residents will mark a new era for Murray in 2023. After years of planning and construction, a new city hall, museum, and possibly a performing arts venue will open. In addition, there will be a new face on the city council and a new department within the city government.
Murray residents will have new businesses to choose from again after a growth hiatus due to the pandemic. After many contentious debates, major residential housing developments will welcome dwellers to their new homes.
However, city officials say that Murray residents may now have to grapple with new water and electricity requirements.
City hall construction will be completed in March 2023. The city will then need to outfit the new edifice with furniture and IT equipment. If all goes as planned, the public will be invited to tour the new facility by the end of April, and a ribbon-cutting will likely happen in May.
While most of the city hall complex will be xeriscaped, crews will still lay some areas of sod, even in December. Due to winter’s onset, the city has postponed some landscaping projects since sensitive trees and plants will not survive the cold.
Murray City Chief Administrative Officer Doug Hill said, “The police side of the building is a little bit behind. They’re still putting up sheetrock, installing tile, and things like that…for the most part, it is really close to being done on the inside.”
As city hall’s most prominent tenant, the Murray Police Department will take up the entire west wing. Most officers will have their own space within the department. The new building boasts an extensive evidence storage area, upgraded technology and a new gymnasium, which will be open to all city employees.
“The biggest change is that we’re moving the Community and Economic Development Department into city hall. Right now, it’s all housed at the Public Works building, so all of the business licenses, building permits, zoning staff, and the planning staff are all going to come into city hall,” Hill said.
The new city council chamber is three times the size of the current room. As the most distinctive part of the building, the chamber protrudes out in a semicircle and is cloaked in copper-colored metal sheeting. The council will also enjoy a larger Committee of the Whole room.
Outside the council chambers is a concrete stage area with seawall platforms that people can sit on.
“There has been talk about having some street fairs during the year, where we can close down Fifth Avenue—which is on the south side of city hall—and set up some food trucks,” Hill said. “The library’s talked about having some of their outdoor reading events over there.”
In welcoming a new city hall, the city will also say goodbye to the old one.
“I can say that it was going to be sold in the first half of 2023,” Hill said. “Everything on the block, with the exception of the FiiZ (soda) store, insurance building, and the little café; those three properties are not owned by the city. But everything else on the block—the old school district building, the alternative high school building—will be sold together with city hall.”
No plans or stipulations exist for the current city hall, originally Arlington Elementary School.
“There are some city councilmembers that are very anxious to get something (a proposal) before them,” Hill said.
City Councilman Garry Hrechkosy raised concerns with historic preservationists and residents living near city hall by being open to the possibility of putting up a high-rise that would border Murray Park. Hrechkosy told the Murray Journal, “I think that we need to maximize value to our citizens and follow the zoning as laid out. We would need to look at every angle.”
Also potentially up for sale is the Murray Chapel. The city acquired the chapel in 2017; it was built in 1926 and has historical protections. Adjacent to the chapel is a vacant lot, purchased by the city with many properties in downtown Murray’s Block One.
“The historical protections can be removed very easily since the city owns the property. All that’s required right now in the ordinances is that the mayor just has to basically write a letter to the planning department and request the historical protection be removed…It’s as simple as that,” Hill said.
Another change prompted by the closure of city hall will be the relocation of the Murray Museum, from city hall to the yet-to-be-restored Murray Mansion. The mansion was part of the city’s 2017 Block One purchase and will also house the city’s cultural arts offices.
“Right now, they’re waiting to get a building permit to start the renovation. So far, there have been some minor renovations done to that building that don’t require building permits, like a new roof, new gutters, and new windows, but the major work that’s taking place is going through the building permit process right now. They’ll have to be ready to go by at least May,” Hill said.
Also waiting for permits is the Murray Theater. The theater renovation has been delayed due to loss of funding during the pandemic. Murray City has been surveying the public on what to program in the new venue, which they hope to release the survey results this year. The city also recently purchased property behind the facility for access.
“I’ve heard people say that they think we could get it ready by the fall of 2023. Honestly, I’m skeptical that it would take that short of time, but I think there’s hope that it could be ready by fall. I think, realistically, probably not till 2024,” Hill said.
The wheels have just started turning on the Murray Armory project. The old National Guard structure bordering Murray Park’s arboretum could become a reception center or event hall. Discussions have included adding a creekside patio on Little Cottonwood Creek or outfitting the floor with pickleball courts. The city is coming up with schematic designs and cost estimates to present to the city council.
Murray City could be getting new parks in 2023—“new” in the sense that they are currently part of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. The county proposed that the city take over two parks, Woodstock Meadows (1060 E. Hyland Lake Drive) and Riverview Park (5840 S. 700 West). The parks would not come with any funding. Instead, the city would pick up an additional $60,000 in estimated annual maintenance costs.
The city council will vote on the proposal early 2023, and then the Salt Lake County Council will need to approve it. The county has already offloaded several other small parks to neighboring cities, like Millcreek, who agreed to the transfers.
Murray Water customers will notice the implementation of a new automated metering integration system in 2023. AMI will allow the city to monitor meter readings more efficiently. However, the biggest concern for the city is electricity.
“The biggest question right now that we have for 2023 is what’s going to happen with energy… there are a lot of different forces in play right now with power,” Hill said. “I mean, coal is hard to come by. People don’t like it. Some of the resources we have, like the coal-powered Hunter (Power) Plant, come with questions about how long that plant will be open. Right now, you can’t get coal because one of the big coal mines in Utah is on fire....We have the IPP plant, and they’re converting to natural gas, but California is taking much of that power.”
Also problematic for Murray Power customers is the ability of Glen Canyon Dam to provide power. Lake Powell has hit record-low levels and should the lake lower below the dam’s intake, it may not be able to generate electricity.
“Power might actually be probably one of the biggest issues that our citizens will be impacted by next year,” Hill said. “We may have to go out and buy power on the market, pay higher rates for what we currently do with our existing resources.”
Murray City Council will welcome a new member in 2023, due to the resignation of District 1 City Councilor Kat Martinez. Martinez relocated to Oregon for a new job, and the city council will choose a replacement to start in January. On Dec. 11, former Planning Commissioner Phil Markham was appointed to fill the vacancy.
Martinez was responsible for bringing a new face and department to city hall: Conlon Bonner, Murray’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant. During the Nov. 1 city council meeting, Mayor Brett Hales announced Bonner’s hiring, which was prompted by a recommendation from the city’s DEI task force.
Tenants are starting to take up residence in the Murray Square (4672 S. 900 East) development. Having replaced the former Kmart building, the project is currently leasing 300 units, with another 121 on the way. The development will also have retail space that fronts 900 East.
After a controversial start, Boyer Company’s redevelopment of the former RC Willey site has commenced. Originally proposed as a mixed-use development, Boyer scaled back to include townhomes.
Also controversial, the Hamlet development on Bullion Street has capped the contaminants of the former smelter and will soon begin constructing homes and townhomes. Just as contentious, the Vine Apartments, which replaced the former Mount Vernon school, are scheduled to open. Across the street from it, developers are planning two new projects, the “Wyatt” and “Noah,” on Center Street, that will be four-stories tall.
Still in the works are developers’ ideas about the future of the Pointe (5300 S. State St.) and the former Murray Fun Dome property. A permit was sought to demolish the former Fun Dome structure, but city planning staff rejected the developer’s plans.
According to Hill, nothing is happening with Block One in downtown Murray, but that could change if the city council alters the current Murray City Center District ordinance.
“We’ve been recommending that the city sell the property,” Hill said. “We are still waiting to hear what they (the city council) want to do on Block One and the downtown area.”
Murray residents can shop and eat at new establishments in 2023. Many customers were shocked to hear the long-lived eatery Restaurant Morelia (6098 S. State St.) closed. After 33 years, owner David Gonzalez decided to retire. A new Mexican restaurant, Casa Linda, will open in its place.
Across the street, Morgan Jewelers is relocating its Fashion Place Mall store. Along with retail space, the building will include its company offices. The former jewelry store’s property will be replaced by two new restaurants: Crack Shack (a fried chicken café) and Via 313 Pizza.
Finally, the trendy convenience store chain Kum & Go will open its first Utah location on 900 East and Vine Street.