Daily Archives: February 2, 2007

Right in My Own Backyard

I’ve just been reading about a massive new development project that’s planned for Lehi, Utah, a town just south of where I grew up, in the next valley over. Up until a few years ago, Lehi was a bucolic farming community where the largest structure of any kind was the old roller mill where Kevin Bacon and his friends staged their high-school dance in the movie Footloose. I used to love driving down that way in my big Ford Galaxie, past the sweet-smelling fields along narrow two-lane (and in some cases, one-lane) roads that were so infrequently travelled that no one had bothered to maintain the lane stripes.
As with so many of the places I knew as a teenager and young adult, however, that Lehi is gone forever. Nowadays Lehi is another anonymous suburban wasteland with some of the most congested traffic conditions along the Wasatch Front (the result of a whole bunch of new residents trying to get to work along those narrow old roads), and it’s about to get worse. The planned development is described as an “85-acre ‘high-adventure’ residential and retail development” that will include the tallest building in Utah, a 450-foot, five-star hotel and convention center. I have no idea what a “high-adventure” residential and retail development is supposed to be, and I can’t imagine a less likely place to plant a skyscraper than the wind-swept bluff that divides the Salt Lake Valley from Utah Valley, but here’s the really agonizing part: this entire project is being designed by none other than Frank Gehry.