September 30, 2013

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Present and Future of Downtown SLC Discussed During ULI Event

By Rachel Madison

September 30, 2013

Salt Lake City’s new downtown master plan and the future of the city were discussed Thursday during an event put on by the Urban Land Institute of Utah, which consists of several business and community leaders.

The group was able to meet with members of Salt Lake City’s planning department to discuss the present and future of downtown Salt Lake City. Molly Robinson, urban designer for Salt Lake City, and Wilford Sommerkorn, director of planning for Salt Lake City, outlined the planning process for Salt Lake City's downtown master plan and summarized downtown's existing conditions.

The vision for the new downtown master plan is “Downtown seeks to be the premier center for urban living, commerce and cultural life in the Intermountain West.” Supporting principles of the plan are to provide a sense of activity, choice, belonging, discovery and experience, connectivity and wonder. Other supporting principles include making downtown business personal, making walkability a priority, creating a safe and healthy city, and understanding that a person’s sense of place is derived from their physical and emotional experience downtown.

So what does the downtown master plan mean for businesses, residents and the future of the city? Robinson said right now, that’s the question. “Our question is ‘How do we get there?’ We don’t know yet.”

Robinson said what they do know is that the plan shows where the city wants to go and will eventually provide a roadmap of how to get there. Currently, the master plan is in the plan development stage. The draft plan should be rolled out by the end of the year, and the adoption process should begin in spring of 2014.

Interesting facts about the current state of downtown Salt Lake City:

- The last time a master plan was created for downtown Salt Lake City was in 1995.

- Downtown is considered the area between North Temple and 900 South and Interstate 15 and 200 East. That’s about 1,500 acres.

- The amount of land devoted to government or institutional use in downtown Salt Lake City is 54 percent.

- There are 7,000 hotel rooms in downtown Salt Lake City. “That sounds like a lot but it really isn’t when you consider the size of events that are now beginning to happen in Salt Lake,” Sommerkorn said.

- Downtown Salt Lake City has close to 3 million visitors per year.

- Downtown Salt Lake City generated approximately $455 million in retail sales last year. Sixty percent of that revenue comes from restaurants.

- There are 5,000 people living in the downtown area, and that number is growing. “That number will be increasing as more projects come online,” Sommerkorn said. “We’ve got to bring in more things like grocery stores, parks and schools.”

- On a typical work day, there are 43,000 people working in downtown Salt Lake City. About 8,000 of those people live within Salt Lake City limits, including downtown. Of those 8,000, only about 460 people both live and work in downtown.

- Salt Lake City’s downtown blocks are 660 feet by 660 feet, which makes it difficult for the city to provide walkability for its residents and visitors, Robinson said.

- The majority of transportation into downtown is by car. Downtown has 25,000 off-street parking spaces and 2,000 on-street parking spaces.

- In 2012, The Road Home served about 6,000 homeless people in the downtown area. On any given day, there are approximately 1,000 homeless people in downtown Salt Lake City, Robinson said.

- About half of downtown is considered underdeveloped, which means the land has more value than the building that sits on it, Robinson said.

- Half of the blocks downtown do not have any residential space.

- In terms of who lives downtown, men outnumber women two to one, Robinson said.

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