SLC is paving the way for new housing at the Western Garden Center site near Trolley Square

The popular company plans to close its East Side store “in a few seasons” after seven decades.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Western Gardens at 600 East in Salt Lake City will be shown in December 2021. The owners of the 73-year-old nursery have applied to have the site repurposed, with plans to replace it with a new apartment complex.

Salt Lake City has approved new zoning to allow Western Garden Centers owners to build an apartment complex on the site west of Trolley Square after it closed as a longtime garden contractor.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the conversion of the 2.28-acre lot at 550 S. 600 East from neighborhood commercial use to a new shape-based style of zoning and gave the green light to plans for an interim four-story multi-family project, Cottonwood’s is being built by Residential, a property developer based in Salt Lake City.

Councilor Darin Mano said that amid concerns from neighbors, the project will be covered by an additional deal with developers to mandate 25-foot setbacks from adjacent single-family homes west of the property and guarantee additional on-site parking.

Mano said the city lacks the ideal zoning to align development with its predominantly residential environment, “the best we can do until we can adopt this is to adopt it with development agreements that are hopefully as specific as possible are.”

Longtime Western Garden owner Lon Clayton said last December the popular store will remain in business “a few more seasons” before it closes after 73 years and he and others involved retire.

“It’s very sad for us to do this,” Clayton said at the time, “but we’re old men now and there’s no new one in the family — or not in the family for that matter — to take it on.”

The announcement of the impending closure made many longtime gardeners in the east of the city and elsewhere cringe. The shop has specialized in Utah’s native plant species for generations and offers advice on the growing conditions of the region.

The family’s Sandy location closed four years ago, leaving a remaining location at 4050 W. 4100 South in West Valley City.

Developers have said that the new zoning for the Salt Lake City site will “open an opportunity to create a unique neighborhood community” that is walkable, close to public transportation, has its own parking and retail support for commerce at the adjacent Trolley Square.

No official timeline has yet been offered as to when the housing project might break ground or be completed. SLC is paving the way for new housing at the Western Garden Center site near Trolley Square

Joel McCord

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