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The Point: Turning a prison into a green development

A section of the Utah State Prison at the Point of the Mountain in Draper is pictured on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

DRAPER, Utah – The 700-acre prison site in Draper officials named ‘The Point’ is set to become the greenest, most innovative development in Utah if planners get their way. 

The Point of the Mountain Development Commission told the Deseret News Editorial Board that they’ve been getting input for years, including from people who live in Draper, about what that development, called The Point, would look like. 

Planners now envision The Point as a mix of tech industry jobs, housing, open space, trails, and a world-class research facility all of which would be completely car-free, though connected to the rest of Utah via public transit like light rail and buses. 

Utah State Representative V. Lowry Snow (R-Santa Clara) is the co-chairman of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority. He told the editorial board that selling off the land to developers would not be in the best interests of Utah. 

Snow believes Utahns will get a much better return on investment, not just monetarily. 

“Setting the standard for environmental quality, quality of life, open space,” Snow said. “When you turn this over to private development because for developers the bottom line is so focused on profit margin, they don’t have the same freedom, you might say, to work on some of those other issues.” 

Planners and politicians are betting the development can ease some of the woes of the Wasatch Front by providing affordable housing, as well as making the air cleaner with more open space and less reliance on cars. 

Point of the Mountain State Land Authority Executive Director Alan Matheson hopes it provides another benefit for families. 

“Our children are going to be able to have world-class careers right here in Utah. It will keep families together,” Matheson said. “If we develop this right, we think we can set a standard of development that others can follow in our state.”  

But critics are skeptical that any development can truly be car-free, or how attractive that will be for people. They argue it might increase traffic, if the development succeeds in attracting people, in a heavily traveled corridor.

They also point out that many developments with a heavy government presence have not panned out as planners had hoped for. 

To cover the costs of infrastructure, the state is looking at bonds and potentially diverting some property taxes. 

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who is running for Governor in November but is also co-chairman of the state’s task force on the project, would also like to see a world-famous landmark become a part of the development, saying it is time for those on the project to “think big”.

“If we do this right, just the innovation of people living and working and playing in one area … that will attract people. But I think we can do more. I don’t know exactly what that thing is, what that vision is, but I think I’ll know it when I see it,” Cox said.