Project Open is a housing and community project that is creating sustainable and affordable housing and workspace for creative professionals in the Guadalupe neighborhood in Salt Lake City. This project is backed by Giv Group, marketed and curated by Craft Lake City, and run by Chris Parker. Parker took on this project because of his passion for renewing places—be it buildings, city blocks, or entire neighborhoods.
Why Guadalupe and why Utah?
Parker describes the Guadalupe neighborhood as “covert, creative, diverse, and proximate.” He comments that “if we don’t put some stakes in the ground for creatives and all-incoming housing options now, we’ll regret it.” Parker foresees a future where people live in communities that don’t rely on fossil fuels, that nudge them toward creativity and health, communities that include all shades of people from all walks of life. Project Open reaches for that future, Parker says he’s hoping this sort of culture being built can be spread throughout Salt Lake and Utah as the population grows.
The inversion is a common problem every winter in Utah. As the population grows, that inversion is set to worsen. Parker comments that “Our population is set to double in the next few decades. Twice our current inversion isn’t pretty. We need to get to a place where every new building is fully powered by renewable sources or our state won’t be livable half the year.” To prevent the worst from happening, Parker suggests “we’ll need to prove out net-zero buildings that cost the same or less to build…and don’t put size or orientation restrictions on what can be built.” Project Open is the first development in Utah to do that.
Working with Craft Lake City
Craft Lake City has teamed up with Giv Group to bring Project Open to life by promoting the housing project and curating the creative studio workspace. These studio spaces are in a separate building adjacent to the living spaces. They are private open spaces with natural lighting and a lot of potential for any category of artist. Parker comments, “Craft Lake City has a decade of experience cultivating creativity. The collaborations made a lot more sense than either doing it solo.” Because the project includes studio spaces for local artists and entrepreneurs, it fits right into Craft Lake City’s mission to elevate Utah’s creative community.
Project Open in the future
Project Open is meant to better Salt Lake City. Salt Lake is a great city with enormous potential, as evident by its increasing growth, but without sustainable housing, the future may not be so pretty. With the problem of the inversion looming over us, very literally, sustainable housing is an innovative step towards cleaner air and a brighter future. “If we can’t figure it out with so much incentive, it’ll be because we chose not to,” comments Parker, “The US is driving remote control cars on Mars right now; Denmark’s finishing a trash-incinerating ski slope on the beach. We’re ridiculously inventive animals when we want to be.”
As for talking numerical goals, Parker hopes to see 25% of new multifamily structures getting built without a gas line in five years, and maybe even 100% in ten years. “Affordable housing cannot get built at the scale it needs to if it’s reliant on the current sources available to it.” Parker comments, “We need to find ways to cut the cost of construction by 30% in ten years in order to build affordable housing without subsidy.” Chris Parker and Giv Group have a vision of this housing to be the same or even high quality than what is currently being built.
Giv Group has worked on other projects similar to Project Open in Ogden and Provo. Recently, they played a role in helping cultivate Provo’s thriving Startup District. “If there was some way of measuring creativity per foot, a couple blocks down there would rate as high as anywhere in Utah,” says Parker. With city and resident support in Ogden, Giv Group turned rundown city blocks with high crime rate into a pleasant neighborhood with renovated Victorian houses and mansions, fallow churches, a teahouse, restaurants, residential racquetball courts, and over one hundred-fifty permanently mixed-income residences.
Sense of community
Part of the goal of these projects like Project Open is to create a sense of community within the residents. Many people these days don’t know their own neighbors, or maybe only know a few. It is even more common to be unfamiliar with your neighbors if you live in an apartment, in the very same building even. “Once we’re fed and safe, our lifespans and well being are more tied to being connected and working on something we feel is important,” Parker says “We’re interested in finding ways of measuring that sort of thing and designing structures and programming that make the things that actually generate and sustain happiness easier to do.”
With projects like Project Open, Giv Group and Craft Lake City hope to give opportunities to the community—opportunities like affordable, sustainable housing, forming a sense of community, and of course, creating. You can learn more about Project Open and how to apply to live and work there here.