On December 13, 2006, Salt Lake City broke ground to begin construction on the Sorenson Unity Center. The Unity Center is located at 1383 South 900 West, adjacent to the current Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center, which is currently owned and operated by Salt Lake City.
The Unity Center will be built on property donated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and James LeVoy Sorenson, using $6.5 million in funds donated by the Alliance for Unity and James Sorenson as well as funds obtained from U.S. Bank as part of the federal New Market Tax Credits program. In 2003, Mayor Rocky Anderson proposed the creation of the Unity Center to provide services, programming, and recreation facilities to the under-served Glendale area, and to help resolve the Main Street Plaza dispute.
Because of Mr. Sorenson’s generosity and his commitment to the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods, the new facility will be known as the Sorenson Unity Center. The area bounded by 8th West on the east and 9th West on the west, and by Riley Elementary on the south and California Avenue on the north, will be known as the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Unity Campus. This includes the existing Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. (The current Sorenson Recreation Center has been a part of the Glendale community since 1979. The Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center currently provides programming for at-risk youth, a swimming pool, a computer technology center, an IHC health clinic, arts events and classes, and other community programming.)
The Unity Center will be approximately 26,000 square feet with multiple planned uses. An extensive public process conducted by the City determined these uses. This process began with a series of three public meetings that brought west-side residents together with potential partners to discuss the community’s vision for the future Unity Center. The City sent over 1500 letters to individuals and organizations urging participation in the meetings, which were widely advertised in print media outlets and on the City’s website.
Participants at the meetings were asked to consider which facilities, services, and programs the Center should offer. The areas of greatest interest identified by the participants were:
- health and fitness
- cultural exchange, arts, and humanities
- education, training, and early-childhood opportunities
- medical, dental, and mental health services
- informational resources, such as business, legal, and social services
The City asked a broad-based group of residents and community leaders to serve as the Sorenson Unity Center Advisory Group. The group met numerous times to identify potential partners and programs that would best implement the community vision that emerged from the public meetings. Once the desired partners and programs were identified, City employees negotiated with potential partners, developed a business plan, and worked with VCBO Architects to design the building.
Once City staff and VCBO had completed an initial design for the Unity Center, the Administration sought input on the design from community councils and the City Council.
The Unity Center will be a high-performance, LEED-certified facility. (LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. The standard is set by the United States Green Building Council. A building is LEED- certified when it meets standards for sustainable site development, water and energy conservation, material selection, and indoor environmental quality).