Salt Lake City’s latest neighborhood to welcome new residents downtown has its quirky aspects.
Paperbox Lofts opened its doors Thursday just east of The Gateway, with 195 apartments spread over three tall buildings on a long and awkwardly skinny piece of former industrial property.
The mixed-use development on 1.99 acres is a kind of urban residential canyon, accented with splashes of primary colors and dramatic multistory murals. It now links 300 West and 400 West with a midblock walkway and will have ground floor retail spaces and an open plaza at its center.
Located within walking distances of a host of downtown attractions, including the Utah Jazz’s recently renamed Delta Center arena, the new complex of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments also offers 39 of its units at subsidized rents affordable to tenants earning 60% of area median incomes.
The opening comes amid a flurry of new apartment construction in the heart of Utah’s capital, which, along with out-of-staters moving in, is projected to double the area’s full-time population from about 5,000 now to 10,000 by 2025.
Fourteen of Paperbox’s dwellings are designed as live-work spaces, and four are equipped and set aside for residents with disabilities.
Downtown’s latest housing project is named after Utah PaperBox, a privately owned packaging company founded in 1914 that occupied the site until it relocated in 2013 to new headquarters at 920 S. 700 West. Officials from the company attended Thursday’s gala, in part to thank the city for help with the relocation.
Paperbox Lofts also took nearly eight years from conception to completion, with construction that started in 2019 slowed by the brunt of the pandemic. Jeff Warr, chief legal officer for PEG Cos., said the past two years of work “felt more like 16.”
“But everybody hung in there,” added Clearwater CEO Micah Peters, “and here we are today.”
In addition to a small public park, amenities in the new living complex include a clubhouse with gaming center, a communal outdoor kitchen and a sports-watching venue for residents, to be called the Locker Room.
Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency invested $3.2 million in the project in the form of a land write-down, in exchange for bringing more affordable housing to the downtown core.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall and City Council member Alejandro Puy, who currently heads the RDA board, attended Thursday’s ribbon-cutting to launch Paperbox and praised a series of partnerships that helped create its affordable units.
The mayor likened such openings to the modern equivalent of “an urban barn-raising” and urged more cooperation between the city and housing developers.
“We have to come together,” Mendenhall said. “The private market will not do it alone. We want to be your partner going forward.”
Constrained by its narrow lot, the Paperbox Lofts project also deploys two mechanical parking systems in lieu of a traditional parking garage, with seven-story and two-story structures designed to automatically stack and retrieve vehicles dropped off by their drivers.
Ernesto Chavarria, CEO of The Trivial Co., based in Rio Vista, Calif., said the system — likened to an automobile vending machine — fits 127 stalls into the footprint of a 27-stall surface parking lot.