Downtown Sandy City ‘The Cairns’ Plan

George Shaw, AICP

The Cairns Plan is the current Master Plan (2017) for Downtown Sandy, referred to previously as the Civic Center and South Town Plans. The area is bordered by 9000 South on the north, the Trax line on the east, 10600 South on the south and I-15 on the west, comprising approximately 1000 acres. The vision of the plan is to create a mixed use City Center in Sandy. Sandy City was one of the first communities in the state to adopt a mixed use zoning classification. Over the years mixed use development has become an integral part of the City’s plan implementation.


Recently a tour was given of Sandy's City Center by James Sorensen (Community Development Director) and Nick Duerksen (Economic Development and RDA Director). Tour participants rode a City van to view and discuss first-hand the various mixed use developments within the City Center, including housing, the new Hale Center Theater, re-structuring of the South Town Mall, transit oriented development, Jordan Commons entertainment center and the Expo Center, major office development, hotels, restaurants, open space, pedestrian circulation, and Rio Tinto Stadium. The latter is now the focus of a new Area Master Plan to re-think the development possibilities in proximity to the stadium.


Three major takeaways from the Tour:

  • 1) Suburban communities can re-invent themselves into vibrant and walkable mixed use centers (in Sandy’s case, there never was a typical Main St. or city center, so the downtown was created from the ground up).
  • 2) The Sandy RDA has been aggressively purchasing area properties. With Sandy being a hot real estate market, the RDA has been able to successfully market properties to prospective developers, leveraging mix use development standards as part of contractual sales agreements.
  • 3) Master Plans having a vision with implementation strategies supported by the community are key to creating exciting places where people want to be and interact with one another.

About the Author: George G. Shaw, AICP, is a semi-retired planning consultant living in Saratoga Springs, UT. He previously worked for the cities of South Jordan, Salt Lake City, Sandy City, and Orem, all but the last in management positions. He has championed the principles espoused by CNU before ‘walkable communities’ and a ‘sense of place’ became popular terms. He has also taught these principles to public officials in the work place and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah. He believes that educating the public and working with professionals from a variety of fields, is key to moving the principles of New Urbanism forward. With a better future vision, Utah communities can become so much more---livable places that can enhance the lives of all our citizens.