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Murray Journal

Memories fade as 49th Street Galleria makes way for new development

May 08, 2023 12:04PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Crews have demolished the former iconic 49th Street Galleria for a yet-to-be-proposed development. (Photo courtesy of AISU)

After years of serving as a landmark, the 49th Street Galleria was demolished to make way for a new development. Nothing has been proposed formally to the Murray City Planning Department, but the property owners, Cottonwood Development, could offer up to 40 apartment units an acre. Theoretically, at 26 acres, the property could have a maximum of 1,040 units for the site.

The 49th Street Galleria, later the Fun Dome, and the American International School of Utah (AISU) charter school have been a fixture in Murray for over three decades. The sprawling entertainment complex featured a roller-skating rink, bowling alley, arcade, miniature golf range, and batting cages, drawing crowds of families and teenagers alike. 

Murray City Community and Economic Development Director Jared Hall said the development will not reach the maximum number of units allowed under zoning requirements due to logistic reasons. He noted that while the site technically provides for 40 units per acre, it’s not enough density for anyone to build parking structures, which costs a lot of money. 

“It’s almost a given that at 40 units per acre, we will see mostly—and probably totally—surface parking. Surface parking is cheaper, but it eats up your space—space you would have used to build units and max out your density. The other way to max out is to go higher with the buildings, but that also costs a lot more. The costs increase a lot over three stories. With greater densities going taller may be a good investment, but probably not at 40 units per acre,” Hall said.

City Councilor Phil Markham shared his concerns about the project, which include traffic and the impact on the quality of life in the Clover Meadows subdivision. He also noted that the development does not require approval from the council for a rezoning, but it will be required to submit a site plan to the planning commission.

“Personally, I would have preferred a lower-density project with twin homes or townhomes as the primary feature. My dream scenario would have been an (age) 55 and over senior housing community,” Markham said.

Clark Bullen, a resident, expressed disappointment that the site will no longer be an entertainment destination for families and children. He said, “I know this was tried in two iterations and ultimately not successful. It’s unfortunate. Many people from all over Utah and beyond have fond memories of the 49th Street Galleria and the Fun Dome.”

Bullen believes that the city should focus on balancing its housing stock and availability with medium- and low-density and single-family homes. “If we don’t carefully plan, a community like Murray could become mostly a bedroom community of apartments without enough medium and low density to remain an effective city,” he said.

The former 49th Street Galleria site is a sizeable property with close access to two freeway entrances in Murray’s central location. As a result, many developers see it as a particularly desirable location. 

“I think you’ll see a project that mixes apartments at no more than three stories mixed with some townhomes that carry a lot of value in this market. Neither of those things will require expensive structured parking, but you won’t see any density even close to the maximum. Maybe more like half or less,” Hall said.

Markham said, “I believe that we have more than our fair share of apartment projects nearing completion or in the planning phase. I attribute this to our central location in the valley and easy freeway access, as well as having three light rail stations and a FrontRunner station. Our proximity to Intermountain Medical Center and Fashion Place Mall also contributes.”

“Arguably, we need more medium-density housing and single-family homes for balance in our housing stock and availability. The State is trying to solve the housing shortage by pressuring cities to build more and more density, which is causing neglect for the ‘missing middle’ housing. There is actually a shortage of all housing types, not just high density,” Bullen said.

The Murray City Master Plan is scheduled to be updated within two years. The city is already undertaking studies of transit station areas to address the demand for higher density and commercial development.

“This is a crucial timeframe for citizens to become involved in the future of our city. With the price and scarcity of land in Murray, it is inevitable that we will see more projects with higher density. The days of everything being single-family, R1-8 housing are over. We need to revisit the areas surrounding our neighborhoods and figure out ways to preserve the quality of life that made Murray attractive in the first place,” Markham said.

Bullen said, “I think we need to specifically plan where we want to see more commercial growth/activity and where we want more medium and low density. Otherwise, there will be a lot of pressure from the State and developers for all available space to become higher-density apartments.” λ