The events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were a harrowing reminder of how fragile democracy can be when trust in our institutions, processes and elected representatives falters. While not fully insulated from the divisiveness, Utahns have benefitted from a general willingness to work together, collaborate on challenging issues and plan ahead for future generations. This “Utah Way” is exemplified in The Point, the 600 acres of state-owned property located at The Point of the Mountain in Draper.
Widely recognized as one of the most important community-building opportunities in state history, The Point offers unprecedented potential to create a sustainable development that advances innovation and catalyzes robust economic growth while preserving open space, providing parks and regional trail connections and protecting the environment.
Governor Spencer Cox, a former Point of the Mountain State Land Authority co-chair, recently stated, “The Point is unlike anything we have seen in the history of Utah and an opportunity that we rarely see anywhere else in the world. Development at the site, coupled with the opening of the newly rebuilt Salt Lake International Airport, signals that Utah can compete in an increasingly globalized economy and become a renowned destination for research, innovation and sustainability.”
The Point is owned by all Utahns and all Utah residents will have the opportunity to help plan the site. Over 4,000 Utahns participated during the regional visioning process conducted from 2016 to 2018. They called for a model development that helps address the challenges of growth. In particular, the public has asked for vibrant urban centers with entertainment and public gathering places, an innovation district that spurs technological advancement and creates high-paying jobs, and development that reduces air emissions and resource use. They have also asked for development that complements the surrounding communities with parks, open space and trails, with a world-class, multimodal transportation system to facilitate mobility at and around the site.
In the 2018 General Session, the Legislature directly incorporated this public feedback into H. B. 372, The Point of the Mountain State Land Authority. The bill, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Herbert, also created an eleven-member board consisting of state and local officials. Since its inception, the board has worked diligently to fulfill its legislative mandate with an overriding commitment to promote the public interest.
In July 2019, the board hired me as the executive director. Since that time, we have assembled a team of subject-matter experts to conduct market analyses, identify strategies and approaches that optimize public benefits and establish our public communications channels.
We organized five working groups composed of Utah leaders in business, academia and government to guide planning and support recruitment and investment efforts. These working groups have identified Key Vision Elements for The Point in the areas of community design, future-focused transportation, sustainability, economic opportunity, innovation and collaboration with surrounding communities.
We are assembling a stakeholder advisory committee to represent even broader perspectives in the planning process. The master plan for The Point will be critical to Utah’s future, so we encourage all to actively participate in the process to create it. We will hold virtual and live-streamed public workshops and open houses at key points in the process. We will also continue to conduct public surveys to ensure representative feedback from Utahns across the state.
We recognize our duty to make prudent decisions that will directly benefit current and future generations. Working together with the public, we intend to create a sustainable, accessible, thriving, future-focused community of which all Utahns can be proud.
Afterall, that’s The Point.
Alan Matheson is the executive director of The Point and former executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.