Utah’s dramatic growth seen from the sky – Salt Lake Tribune

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No state in America has grown quite as quickly as Utah in recent years. And in some areas, the transformation is even visible from space.

Some of Utah’s most dramatic growth spurts have been in the southern areas of Salt Lake County and northern Utah County, thanks in part to the cluster of tech employers known as “Silicon Slopes.” Long-time residents have watched the landscape quickly transform from sleepy farmland into large housing complexes, offices and shopping centers.

“The valley has filled up with housing,” said Mallory Bateman, a demographer at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. “There was room to grow, and they’ve got access to a lot of different job opportunities, cultural things and community resources. It’s a well-connected spot in the metropolitan region.”

The overnight boom is clear when driving around the area, but it’s especially remarkable from above. Across Utah, archived satellite imagery from Google Earth reveals the mark of precipitous growth on the landscape.

In Vineyard, a new town from scratch

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Vineyard, Utah is an exceptional case of new growth. The town, once the site of a large World War II era steel mill, had virtually no inhabitants in 2010—just over a hundred people. But in the decade since, a large housing development on the ruins of the factory has attracted over 12,000 new residents, earning it the title of the fastest growing small city in America.

Marcus Case, a realtor who grew up nearby said he moved to Vineyard 5 years ago. He’s really taken to the community and now rents out two properties there.

“I feel like the average demographic is a 35 year-old couple with two kids, but you see a lot of single people in the condos there,” Case said, noting the 55-plus retirement community.

Right now, Vineyard has little retail and is separated from it by train tracks and a bridge, but that’s expected to change soon with more development. The town will soon get a FrontRunner commuter rail station for easier access into Salt Lake City and Provo. Near the station will be more mixed use residential and commercial spaces.

But as the site of the old steel mill fills up, growth is slowing down a bit.

“There’s not a lot of space left to develop,” said Case.

In Lehi, development pushes the farmers and the cowboys away

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In just 30 years, Lehi has developed from a small town of around 9,000 to one of the largest cities in the Valley, with a population of over 75,000 people. And it continues to boom.

“You can see a lot of those communities used to be farmland and open space that has throughout the decade gotten developed,” said Mallory Bateman. “That follows a trend from the previous decade.”

The side-by-side view of now compared to ten years ago demonstrates this growth. Lush green farms morphed into sprawling suburban developments. The state even developed a new major road through the area, called Pioneer Crossing, connecting existing routes and allowing for more access and development.

Jonathan Allred, owner of One Man Band Diner in Lehi, remembers that transformation over their 25 years in business.

“Looking out the windows, there was nothing out there that existed when we opened,” said Allred. “It was all industrial buildings, with no real restaurants or retail.” Now they’re surrounded by them. Just recently, they’ve had their first patrons who live within walking distance thanks to a new housing complex with over 300 units.

He’s also noticed a shift in who is moving into the area.

“There’s a rural aspect of Lehi that’s going away,” Allred said. “The farmer type and the cowboy type are all migrating away from Lehi and being replaced with people moving from out of state for tech jobs and whatnot.”

Allred has felt pressure from the developers to sell the plot where One Man Band Diner is located, which is now worth a lot more than when he bought it 25 years ago.

“Some of them are a bit aggressive, and some are a bit manipulative,” he said. “They try whatever tricks to figure out how to buy you out and push you out. We’d be hard pressed to recreate this location elsewhere for any kind of budget, so we’re not inclined to go anywhere.”

In Herriman, controversy over traffic and proposed neighborhoods

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More than twice as many people call Herriman, Utah home than ten years ago. That makes it the second fastest growing city in Utah, which shows in the landscape. In just ten years between photos, entire neighborhoods emerged onto formerly vacant plots. It’s clear that the grounds are being set for even more changes in town.

Herriman sits on the southern edge of Salt Lake County, in the same pocket of Utah as Vineyard and Lehi that has filled up in recent decades.

Like Lehi, the area was mostly farmland before building began in recent decades. The city’s population 30 years ago was less than a thousand. Now, the figure is over 62 times what it was then.

The city continues to try to attract new residents and businesses, boasting that it’s the “ideal choice” for businesses looking to capitalize on low land costs and a market that keeps getting larger. They even break down business types the community could benefit from on their website.

Herriman is beginning to buckle under its new weight. Locals complain about traffic and worry about losing the “Herriman feel,” which became key talking points in recent elections.

Still, it will continue to grow, especially with the newly approved Olympia Hills development, a planned community which will repurpose one hundred acres of farmland into 6,000 new units of housing, as well as commercial spaces. The controversial project was approved in 2020.

And the growth continues…

Population projections from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute demonstrate that the intense growth and development will continue. In addition to building in existing neighborhoods, new towns in the region have the potential to add new places to the map altogether.

“I think that the Wasatch Front is going to continue to be attractive to people who want to make a home in Utah, and even the neighboring counties,” said Bateman. “It’s the economic center of the state, so you have a lot of opportunities there.”