Committee launches search for new site

The Utah State Prison was formerly located in the heart of what is now the fashionable Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City. In 1951, the once-rural area became more suburban, and the facility was relocated 20 miles south to Point of the Mountain, near the cities of Draper and Bluffdale.

In recent years the prison has again found itself an unwelcome neighbor, as Point of the Mountain has become a hub for commerce and the home to technology companies like Adobe, IM Flash (a joint venture of computer chip makers Intel and Micron). That growth has state officials looking to move the prison again so the area can be redeveloped into what has been dubbed Utah's Silicon Slopes.

After reviewing a study by the Texas-based MGT of America, a 2014 state legislative committee recommended that the state approve the move. A bill introduced by Utah state Sen. Jerry Stevenson (R-Davis County), and recently signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, creates another committee (made up of five Republicans and two Democrats) to search for a new location.

"We don't know who will be on the committee yet, but that will be determined soon," says Stevenson. "They have a budget of $3.5 million, and some of that can be used as earnest money on property for the new prison."

Stevenson says the committee will look for locations that include ready access to the courts, medical facilities and a steady work force.

"The move just makes sense," Stevenson says. "We were looking at about $250 million to renovate the existing prison. The existing market value of the land, if redeveloped for commercial activity, would be around $1.8 billion, and would create $95 million a year in tax revenue."

The report puts the cost of moving and building a new prison at around $102 million. Stevenson's bill also provides $37 million to expand the state's other prison located in Gunnison. An RFP for the Gunnison expansion will be issued soon, he says, and the committee should have a new site selected by the time the legislature meets next year.

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