Building From Here: Granary Campus SLC

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Leta Baker

Building From Here: Granary Campus SLC

Written by
Leta Baker

Building From Here: Granary Campus SLC

Written by
Leta Baker

Architecture isn’t just about building new structures. It’s also about giving older ones new purpose. That’s the essence of adaptive reuse—respecting the history of a space and maintaining its integrity while adjusting for the needs of its next inhabitants. This practice also has positive implications for sustainability, as it often involves fewer materials than a project built from scratch. 

Campus Salt Lake, featuring the first-ever evo Hotel, is a prime example of adaptive reuse. It’s located in the historic Granary District that was once a grain-silo-filled industrial core and has evolved into a thriving hub of art and culture over the last decade. The campus combines five buildings constructed between 1891 and 1958, the first as a power plant and trolley-car storage space for Salt Lake Rapid Transit, one of the earliest electrified trolley systems in Utah as of 1889. 

evo Hotel Lobby. Photo: Mark Weinberg.

In 2018 this cluster of buildings was ripe for reinvention—120,000 square feet of pure potential. That’s about the time evo set their sights on Salt Lake City and teamed up with Lake Union Partners, known for developing purposeful places that are locally aligned. Both companies were passionate about adaptive reuse and fans of Lloyd Architects projects like Publik and Red Iguana 2, so they chose the Lloyd team to help bring their vision for the campus and hotel to life as a “launchpad for adventure.” 

“We want to light up iconic recreation locations around the globe. To meet customers where they play and give them a place to interact with fellow adventurers,” said Tommy Trause, evo’s Head of Hospitality, Community Marketing and Ecosystem Development,” We love the idea of taking these 100-year-old buildings and injecting them with new life and culture, while highlighting their history and character.”

That involved making the campus a nationally registered historic place, which not only supports its preservation over time, but also earns the owners tax credits to offset construction costs. This process required architectural work to be limited and deliberate, and to harmonize with the existing structures. 

Original brick facade that would be preserved in the new design of evo's retail space. Photo: Mark Weinberg.

The Lloyd team, led by Warren Lloyd and Aaron Day, carefully preserved and highlighted built-in elements like plaster covered masonry walls and a roof featuring exposed timbers and steel. Along the way, they discovered old rail beds in the floors of the buildings and repurposed them in an on-site skatepark. They also recycled timber columns found in the basement as on-site benches.

“We started with a bunch of buildings, but no real center. We had to carefully adapt and unite these spaces in a way that would allow the campus to branch off of one central area—the lobby of the hotel,” said Aaron Day. This involved turning a blank wall into a main entrance. 

The team had a plan and a permit to begin construction in March of 2020. But instead of starting to build, they hit the brick wall of COVID-19. The silver lining was extra time to rethink their plan, most of which remained the same. The only change involved redesigning an area originally slated to be shared hostel rooms (no longer a feasible prospect during a pandemic). The project got back on track in 2021.

“Lloyd Architects took a very complex project that involved stitching together five historic warehouses and looked at it with fresh eyes. They figured out how to create circulation and spur connection throughout these disjointed spaces. The way they nested the 12 Rafter Rooms in the existing trusses of one of the warehouses was absolutely brilliant,” said Tommy.

Adding 50 hotel rooms to the campus required creating a mezzanine level with rooms ranging from the snug, windowless Rafter Rooms, which are quickly becoming post-ski-day favorites, to the more spacious Wasatch Rooms with their private patios and beautiful mountain views. The climbing-themed Boulder Rooms have a retro-lodge design and overlook the 26,000-square-foot Bouldering Project Climbing Gym at the back of the building.

The mezzanine level also includes gathering areas, meeting rooms, locker rooms for the climbing gym and a bar that exits onto a rooftop deck with fire pits and a view of the Wasatch Range. In both Level 9 Sports and evo Salt Lake, this level includes an array of skis, boards and other gear amid a cozy, 1970s-inspired loft. Both vendors offer industry-leading service and technical resources for skis, skates, boards and bikes.

evo's boot fitting area and Bouldering Project's climbing gym that nestles under the windows of evo's hotel rooms. Photo: Mark Weinberg.

“Even though you’re miles from an actual ski resort, this is an intentionally focused community. You really feel like you have something in common with the people you’re sharing the space with,” said Aaron. 

That includes the city’s active skater community. The ground floor of Campus Salt Lake is home to the 5,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor All Together Skatepark, designed to to help all levels of skaters improve their skills. It features quarter pipes, a half pipe, ledges and more made of wood and weather-resistant Skatelite. 

Windows from evo's retail space that look into All Together Skate Park. Photo: Mark Weinberg.

Just behind the lobby sits a convenient coffee counter with plenty of tables and couches for lounging. There’s also space for a restaurant, coming soon, and a market hall that will offer small shop spaces to retailers and service providers.

“Our goal was bringing together a diverse group of people—backgrounds, perspectives, experiences—and galvanizing their shared passion, particularly for outdoor recreation,” said Tommy.

The campus reflects what Tommy calls “a fierce locality.” Each hotel room contains the work of a different Utah-based artist you can learn about using the QR code outside the door. There’s an on-site art gallery curated by Salt Lake artists Anna and Adam Clark, and the rest of the campus is full of murals and other installations with a range of subjects and styles. Even the front desk is a Utah-inspired work of art with its elevated topographic maps of Mount Superior. 

Lloyd Architects team members, Libby and Warren working from evo's Living Room. Photo: Mark Weinberg.

“Looking back, it all began with listening,” said Warren Lloyd, “From the very start, there was a unique consensus within our design team that we listen to all voices—from skaters to climbers to skiers to bikers, of course—but also longtime Utahans and recent transplants who are embracing this place and contributing more diverse perspectives on Salt Lake City, the Wasatch Mountain range and beyond.”

“Campus Salt Lake exemplifies ‘building from here,’ our mantra and guiding principal at Lloyd Architects. With the completion of this project, the Granary District has evolved from an early rail-transit and shipping hub at ‘the crossroads of the West’ to an outdoor-recreation-oriented community that’s anxious to experience and share the trails, canyons and rivers of this state,” said Warren.

The evo brand exists at the intersection of outdoor recreation, art and culture. So does Campus Salt Lake. Its five buildings—each created for a different purpose during a distinct chapter of Salt Lake’s history—now converge in the heart of a city recently named the top U.S. housing market positioned for growth in 2022. In this chapter of its story, the campus sits beside a freeway ramp just 10 minutes from the airport, inviting both locals and visitors to meet up, gear up and launch into their next adventure.