When it opens on July 29, the 65th Annual Salt Lake Parade of Homes will feature one home that's sure to be a stop for most visitors: an exact full-size replica of the house from the popular Pixar animated film “Up.” The 2,800-square-foot house, priced at $399,000, has already received considerable media attention from as far away as Dallas and Boston, as well as national coverage by the Associated Press and ABC News. “We think it’s going to be a great draw,” says Mike Williamson, director of sales and marketing for Momentum Development Group, the developer of Herriman Towne Center, a 377-acre mixed-use, transit-oriented master planned community in a suburb south of Salt Lake City, where the “Up” house is now prominently featured.
Residential construction just started in the community, which when completed over the next 20 years will have 2,032 housing units, including 801 single-family homes, 307 townhouses, 216 condos, 502 apartment units, and 206 homes with commercial components. Richmond American and McArthur Homes, the project’s two primary builders, have their models open and have sold 24 homes so far. Williamson says the houses at Herriman Towne Center will range in price from townhomes that start at $140,000 to single-family homes that go for more than $2 million. He estimates that for-sale units priced under $200,000 will comprise at least half of the community’s residential inventory.
So far, the community’s recreation center, elementary school, and library are completed. The project will include 68 acres of commercial development, with 642,510 square feet of retail and office space. (The 2008 site plan noted that in the previous year, Herriman had captured only 22% of its residents’ retail purchases.) The site plan estimated the total construction costs would be $433 million, and the value of the community at build-out at $378 million.
Williamson told the Salt Lake City Tribune that as many as 20,000 people could see the "Up" house during the Parade of Homes, which will run through Aug. 14. “The house reflects the values of the community: family oriented, a great place to live. And it also says that new homes can be cool.” Momentum and the Parade of Homes are using the "Up" house in their respective marketing materials, and this weekend the developer plans to screen the movie at the park across from where the house has been built.
The replica is the creation of Bangerter Homes, a third-generation custom builder based in South Jordan, Utah, which builds between 20 and 50 houses per year. Norman Bangerter, the son of the company’s founder, had a second career as a politician, having served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years before being elected to two terms as Utah’s governor from 1985 through 1993.
Norman’s three sons, Adam, Jordan, and Blair, now run the company, and the "Up" house was Blair’s idea after he had seen the movie.
How this project came together “was really miraculous,” says Adam, who spoke with Builder on Monday. Blair started sketching out the design (Bangerter Homes does all of its house plans in-house), and watched the movie “at least 100 times,” says Adam, to get the details right, from the scallop shape of the roof tiles and its candy-colored walls and trim, to the look of the light fixtures and the furniture.
Because the movie doesn’t show the entire house, the builder had to imagine its own designs for the kitchen, baths, and bedrooms, one of which was designed through a partnership with the Make-A-Wish foundation in recognition of a sick child realizing his or her dream. The house also includes a full basement and a two-car garage, also not part of the animated version. (Bangerter and Williamson say that to accommodate the garage, Momentum merged three of its 8,000-square-foot lots into two.)
The house is also energy efficient, “and should perform like a champ,” says Adam.
The builder presented its concept to the Salt Lake Home Builders Association, the Parade’s organizer, “who thought it was a wonderful idea,” says Adam, despite the irony of featuring a house from a movie that had anti-sprawl and anti-corporate undertones, and in which the owner actually loses his house in the end. The next hurdle was getting permission from The Walt Disney Co., which acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006. Disney has long had a reputation for guarding its images and material like a pitbull. But Bangerter says the process was relatively painless: His company showed the concept to Disney’s local attorney, and then to corporate officials in California. The only major concession Bangerter Homes made was turning over ownership of the house plan to Disney. “So we can’t make this home again,” says Adam.
Bangerter Homes also has entered into the Parade of Homes a more conventional model home it built at Daybreak, the sustainable community in South Jordan. But that house isn’t likely to generate anywhere near the buzz the "Up" house is already stirring. Even though the interior of the house won’t be finished until July 21, a steady stream of onlookers, often with kids in tow, has been flocking to take a look. (The house has a built-in audience by virtue of the movie having generated nearly $300 million in ticket sales in the U.S. alone, along with millions more in DVD and Blu-ray disc sales.)
And it appears the house will be more than a curiosity. Bangerter says his company has already received offers from buyers. “Someone is supposedly flying in today to take a look at it,” says Bangerter, who couldn’t say where the prospect was coming from.
Which raises the question of whether Bangerter Homes would ever consider building another movie-inspired house. “We’ve joked about doing the ‘What About Bob’ house,” he says, referring to the Bill Murray comedy. But it’s more likely that the "Up" house will emerge as the ultimate one-off model.
John Caulfield is senior editor for BUILDER magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Salt Lake City, UT.