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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Hillside Plaza Advisory Committee to hold open houses during 2024

Jan 04, 2024 01:41PM ● By Cassie Goff

Randy Whitehead championed a resident effort to save Hillside Plaza in 2022. Now, he will serve as the Chair of the Hillside Plaza Advisory Committee. (Photo courtesy of Randy Whitehead)

Gorden Walker will serve as a member for District 4 on the Hillside Advisory Committee in 2024. (Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University High School)

Dan Mills will serve as the Planning Commission Representative within the Hillside Advisory Committee. (Photo courtesy of Idaho State University)

Jill and Scott Shumway were avid supporters of purchasing the Hillside Plaza property and creating the Hillside Plaza Advisory Committee. (Photo courtesy of the Shumway family)

Many Cottonwood Heights residents consider 2023 to be a major win. Tracing all the way back to February 2022 when one resident voiced his concerns and rallied like-minded neighbors, before forming a residential group that summer, to the beginning of 2023 when the city of Cottonwood Heights purchased the largest re-development area in its history and hired a consultant to steer the design process of a future town center. With the newly formed Hillside Advisory Committee, 2024 will bring the design for the future development of the Hillside Plaza Town Center. 

Looking back to the flicker that ignited this lasting change—resident Randy Whitehead voiced some of his preliminary concerns to the Cottonwood Heights City Council on Feb. 15, 2022. His comments came after a potential developer (Wright Development Group) had approached the city about developing high-density within the Plaza area. Whitehead was specifically worried about the potential traffic and noise a high-density development would bring to the surrounding neighborhood.  

“I’m extremely concerned about Hillside Plaza,” Whitehead said.  

Many residents shared Whitehead’s concerns as the passion against high-density development within Hillside Plaza was stoked. On April 5, 2022, Whitehead reported to the Cottonwood Heights City Council that a group of 200 residents had been meeting to discuss growth within the city and the future of Hillside Plaza. Seventeen committees formed within that residential group. 

“Randy Whitehead has drawn residents like no one else has in a city position,” said resident Nancy Hardy on Oct. 3, 2023. 

Over the year of 2022 and into 2023, the City of Cottonwood Heights initiated and carried out the process of purchasing the Hillside Plaza property. On Jan. 17, 2023, the Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA) unanimously approved the purchase of the Hillside Plaza property. (Each of the Cottonwood Heights City Councilmembers serve as the CDRA Board Members.) The board members passed the ratification for realty within the Hillside Plaza area under Resolution 2023-01 and issuance and sale under Resolution 2023-02. 

“We will continue in the due diligence process which includes looking at the bonding,” said City Manager Tim Tingey on Jan. 17, 2023. He went on to report to the CDRA board members that the final purchase price was $14 million with a $100,000 deposit.  Due Diligence would continue through until Jan. 31, 2023. 

On March 21, 2023, 14 residents voiced their support for the purchase of Hillside Plaza to the Cottonwood Heights City Council during their public comment session. 

“Our community comes together,” said resident Jill Shumway. “You can provide a legacy with this purchase of Hillside Plaza.” 

On July 11, 2023, the CDRA unanimously passed Resolution 2023-04 (Approving a Property Management Agreement with K&R Premier Property Management). Under this resolution, K&R agreed to provide property management services for the Hillside Plaza properties. 

On July 18, 2023, Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson reported to the CDRA board that four bids had come in from potential consultants who would like to work on the Hillside Plaza project. On Aug. 1, 2023, the CDRA board announced that they had chosen MGBA+ Consultants to lead the planning and public input for the goals and development of the future Hillside Plaza center. 

“We were really impressed with this company,” said Mayor Mike Weichers. “We are really excited to engage with them.” 

Next, the Cottonwood Heights City Council and Manager called for nominations from interested residents for a Hillside Advisory Committee made up of 12 residents. They received an overwhelming response. Ultimately, the members of the Advisory Committee were recommended, selected, and approved by the Cottonwood Heights City Council and City Manager on Oct. 3, 2023. (Resolution 2023-05: Appointing Members of the Hillside Plaza Citizen Advisory Committee was unanimously approved (with Councilmember Ellen Birrell abstaining).) 

“I hope the Committee builds friendships and relationships that will continue for years on out,” Weichers said.

Whitehead will serve as the Hillside Plaza Advisory Committee Chair. Whitehead has had a home within the city since 1969. He retired in June 2023 and has three children and six grandchildren.  

“I am eternally grateful to Cottonwood Heights for the desire to purchase the property to develop it in a way that will be beneficial for the city. I pinch myself it’s actually happening,” Whitehead said. 

Heather Anderson will be working as the Hillside Plaza Advisory Committee Vice Chair. She has been living in the city for over 26 years and currently lives in District 1. As she has continuously watched her teenage children adventure outside of the city boundaries for their weekend excursions, she’s wondered why Cottonwood Heights doesn’t have more fun activities and locations for the youth.  

“I couldn’t have been more thrilled for the redevelopment. I’m looking forward to seeing what the community would like to see there,” said Anderson. 

 Kayla Lengyel will serve as the Secretary for the Hillside Advisory Committee. Lengyel moved to Utah to attend college at Westminster. She now has a master’s degree in public policy. She thinks she will bring a unique voice to the committee as she works as an accountant and is a parent with young children. 

“I would like the Hillside Plaza space to serve multi-generations,” said Lengyel. 

Dan Mills will serve as the Planning Commission Representative. He recalled visiting the Hillside Plaza as a teenager, as it was a gathering place for him and his friends. The first video store for the area was even opened within the Hillside Plaza.

“I would bounce between Ernst and Safeway; Carl’s Café and Baskin Robins. We would go back and forth to spend lunchtime, after-school time and weekends there,” said Mills.

Lori Gee works as a real estate agent and has been a Cottonwood Heights resident for 30 years. Gee mentioned how during their first meeting as a committee, each member shared their favorite memory of the area. She remembered going on her first date with her husband within Hillside Plaza. (She also mentioned that she’s beat the Mayor in the Thanksgiving 5k every year.) 

“I’m pro-town center. This brings us an opportunity to make a place for the community,” said Gee. “This is my home.” 

Tori Horsley grew up behind what is now the Cottonwood Heights Police Department building. She married another Cottonwood Heights resident. They now have seven children and 17 grandchildren. Horsley recalls fond memories of Hillside Plaza growing up as she’d consistently walk to and from the area up a monstrous hill. 

“I had a business within the Plaza with my sister for over 10 years,” said Horsley. 

Gordon Walker had served on the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission. He has previously worked for governmental entities in Europe, San Diego and Utah. He has also worked as real estate consultant. 

“I have managed many of the funds of the state, so I really know where the money is,” said Walker. 

Mike Hanson has been a resident within District 2 since 1971. He was self-employed beginning in 1986 and most recently sold his business, so he’s found himself with a little more time. 

“The people on this committee are fantastic. I’m probably the least equipped to make decisions,” said Hanson. 

Additional Hillside Plaza Committee members include McCall Shoff for District 1, Brighton High School teacher (and City Journals reporter) Jerry Christensen for District 2, Jacqueline Hibbard for District 3, and former Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Peterson (at large). All 12 members were formally appointed to the Hillside Advisory Committee on Oct. 3, 2023. 

“I’d like to express gratitude to the city and to the members of this committee,” Whitehead said.

“I’m excited to get new people on the team,” said Councilmember Shawn Newell. “We are bringing in a variety of perspectives to help us make the right decision for our city.” 

The Hillside Advisory Committee members have agreed to meet for at least five hours per month. Meetings will include discussion and exploration of topics such as placemaking, walkability, programming and transportation. They will help to facilitate open houses and meetings. In addition, they will disseminate information to residents via social media and newsletters. 

“No pressure but you have to get this perfect,” Weichers teased the Hillside Advisory Committee members.

With the start of the new year, MGBA+ Consultants will work with the Hillside Advisory Committee to set goals and create a clear vision for the Hillside Plaza Town Center. They will hold multiple town hall meetings throughout the six-month planning process to gather feedback from all Cottonwood Heights residents who would like to be involved. 

“We will bring in other residents to expand the overview of the project as we move forward,” said Newell.

“We are excited to hear about what the community wants for Hillside Plaza,” Horsley said. λ