Church, University of Utah and Ivory Homes break ground on new housing

A groundbreaking ceremony Friday signaled the beginning of a unique collaborative housing project involving The University of Utah, the Clark and Christine Ivory Trust and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that will serve students during an unprecedented housing crunch.

The three institutions are working together to build Ivory University House, a four-building, 552-unit apartment community at the corner of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive to add housing for U. students. Rent paid will be donated to provide scholarships, housing stipends and internships for U. students.

The first building is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2023 where a church meetinghouse once stood.

“This innovative new model will transform the university’s housing situation and help serve thousands of students,” University of Utah President Taylor Randall said in a news release. “This type of partnership is key to our future growth, allowing us to provide expanded opportunities for Utah students.”

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shakes hands with University of Utah President Taylor Randall at the groundbreaking ceremony for a unique student housing collaboration called Ivory University House at the U. in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, May 13, 2022.

The Ivory University House is a private facility and not part of the U.’s Housing & Residential Education. It is also not governed by the church.

How the idea of Ivory University House could be worth $1 billion

Clark and Christine Ivory first discussed the idea 10 years ago during his tenure as a member and chair of the university’s board of trustees.

They wound up with a public-private partnership between a state school, a church and a private foundation.

“Rather than making a one-time donation, we wanted to produce an ongoing gift for student support,” he said. “We are taking a $24 million investment and producing an annuity that will likely generate more than $1 billion in impact over 99 years. This is the future financial model for supporting higher education and we are grateful to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for making this possible with our ground lease of this prime property adjacent to the University of Utah.”

The Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation has provided more than 7,000 scholarships, internships and mentorships at universities, colleges and high schools across the state of Utah.

The need for student housing

The Ivory Foundation shifted to student housing needs when the need became critical during the pandemic.

“Fall enrollment is projected to be up nearly 20 percent this year, and there is a waitlist of around 3,000 students who have applied for on-campus housing,” Randall said. “Ivory University House cannot be completed soon enough.”

Randall sees Ivory University House as part of his vision for a “University Town,” which he unveiled in March.

As Ivory University House is constructed, the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation will donate an additional $6 million in seed funding to build “Complete U,” a strategic plan to activate campus year-round and engage underclassmen in experiential learning opportunities that lead to better student outcomes.

“Our foundation has always focused on students who need the greatest support,” Christine Ivory said. “Ivory University House will allow us to expand that focus in so many ways, including providing housing assistance for students most in need.”

Along with Ivory University House, the university is in the process of adding approximately 1,700 units of student housing, including:

  • 430 rooms in the fourth wing of Kahlert Village, slated to open in fall 2023.
  • 775 beds in the Impact and Prosperity Epicenter, which will open in August 2024.
  • 504 units in the University West Village, opening in July 2023.

What the church is contributing

The church agreed to demolish an existing, functioning chapel and provide the land to the foundation for 99 years on a market-rate commercial lease.

“Education opportunities are extremely important to both individuals and society as a whole,” the church said in a news release. “The church is pleased to participate in this project, which will benefit academically focused University of Utah students, with off-campus housing and future scholarships.”

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. He said the church and U. leaders long have talked about the land’s strategic value to the campus.

He said President Russell M. Nelson enthusiastically backed the project.

“We intend to be a part of this community and continue working to make it better and better, particularly to bless this place with great students that will be strong in their commitment to helping their community,” Bishop Caussé said.

Other speakers included Randall, Clark and Christine Ivory, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, the church commissioner of education, also attended the ceremony.

Randall said he and Gov. Spencer Cox and others visited Arizona State University last fall to learn about its creative real estate projects. He said those lessons helped unlock some of the final issues surrounding the Ivory University House project.

Henderson said housing is a key part of access to a college education.

“I’m grateful for every effort made to remove barriers for people to complete their education,” said Henderson, who recently completed her college degree.

Henderson said she hoped the Ivory University House model would spread throughout the state.

Mendenhall said the project is perpetual and a catalytic.

Most projects in the city have 20- or 30-year deed restrictions, not 99-year lifespans. She expressed hope there would be a groundbreaking again in 98 years to redo the project’s perpetual nature.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the groundbreaking for the Ivory University House next to the University of Utah.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ivory University House public-private student housing complex next to the University of Utah on land leased for the project by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, May 13, 2022.

“It is going to inspire the people who live here and the people who come into its sphere to think about what perpetual and catalytic projects they will create here in the state of Utah and all across the world as they take their education and implement it,” Mendenhall said. “They will have built into not just their educational experience but their hearts and their souls and their relationships, a community, a place of wellness and a place that has invested in them in a perpetual way.

“So, it’s not only perpetual financing, it’s about the people who are affected here. That’s remarkable. It’s more than affordable housing. It’s so much more.”

The Ivory University House project is financed by Washington Federal Bank.