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March 7, 2021

Salt Lake City buys historic 'Hobbitville' for $7.5M, sets it aside to become public park

SALT LAKE CITY — Allen Park, which was facing the possibility of being purchased and turned into new development, will soon be a public park. Salt Lake City swooped in and bought it for $7.5 million, officials said Tuesday.

In a short video posted to social media, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced the city had signed paperwork to officially take over the property located just off 1300 East near Westminster Avenue in the Sugar House neighborhood. She said money put forth from the city was collected through impact fees, which are one-time charges from the city from new buildings put toward expanding public facilities, including parks.

“Allen Park is a rare opportunity to preserve almost 7 acres of unique ecosystem in a historic area that would otherwise be developed by private entities,” Mendenhall said in a prepared statement.

While it will soon become a city park, the area remains closed to the public for now. City officials say they will seek public input to figure out how to best utilize the park space. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the timetables for public feedback and when the park will be open to the public weren’t immediately clear Wednesday.

“This is an iconic parcel in a city that needs more open space. We hope we will have partners to help make it an important public park soon,” Salt Lake City Council Chair Chris Wharton added in a prepared statement.

Dr. George Allen and Ruth Larsen Allen purchased the property in 1931 and used a good chunk of the space for their exotic bird collection. Allen Park received the nickname “Hobbitville” because the small houses and log cabins found on the land looked like homes for hobbits.

In addition, it’s filled with signs featuring strange sayings painted on them. It’s considered one of the more unique places in the city. It had come under threat in recent years, though. At least one developer was seeking to purchase the land for future development.

Groups like Utah Public Lands joined in trying to preserve the land parcel. In a statement on its website, the organization said that about $200,000 would still be needed for restoration before it’s opened to the public.

“We have all witnessed how open space has served as a ray of hope amid the current crisis. The ability to preserve Allen Park became a reality because of Salt Lake City’s diligence,” the statement reads. “It became a reality with the use of funds dedicated to parks and open space and funds through Salt Lake Public Utilities. It became a reality because of you.”

Carter Williams

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