February 1, 2012

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Urban Renaissance

City Creek Center Reawakens a Lackluster Downtown

Gaylen Webb

February 1, 2012

From across the street in his little Oxford Shoe Shop at 65 W. 100 South, Richard Wirick, a.k.a. “Mr. Downtown,” has watched the methodic demolition of two city blocks and the rise of the $1.5 billion City Creek Center, complete with its retail, office and residential towers.

            The construction has been rough on his business, he admits, but now that the dust has settled and the construction crews, cones and equipment are all but gone, he—like so many others—can’t wait for Salt Lake City’s comatose central shopping district to awaken when the retail portion of City Creek Center officially opens March 22.

            “We will have one of the finest locations in town,” Wirick says of his shop, and City Creek “will truly create one of the finest downtowns in America.”

            The rising of City Creek Center—this 23-acre, high-density, mixed-use development with its fountains, stream, waterfalls, controversial sky bridge and retractable roof—could be the largest privately funded development project in the United States. Its developer is City Creek Reserve Inc., an affiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in association with its strategic partners, Taubman Centers, Inc., a Michigan-based developer and operator of retail environments, Harmons Grocery Stores, and Cowboy Partners, a Utah-based residential developer.

            In total, the development features approximately 700,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space with an estimated 80 retailers. An additional 60,000 square feet of retail space is located within the eight office towers. The development also includes 5,000 subterranean parking stalls, six acres of landscaped open space and 700 condominiums and apartments in five towers.

            As might be expected, retailers in and around City Creek are giddy with excitement for its opening—and, perhaps, a bit anxious. “Anxious in good sense,” says Bart Stringham, president of Utah Woolen Mills. His store was one of the few within the epicenter of the construction zone to remain fully intact and actually thrive in the midst of the demolition and reconstruction of the two city blocks that comprise City Creek. “On certain days I would be out of my mind,” he adds in retrospect. “But we are whole, we are happy and we are anxious.”


Contagious Optimism

It’s no wonder that downtown retailers are anxious and giddy. Taubman Centers, which owns the two-story retail portion of City Creek, projects 16 million visits to the center annually—that’s more than 51,000 visits per day (if you count only Monday through Saturday shopping; only the six restaurants within City Creek have the option to be open on Sunday).

            The distinction is “visits” rather than visitors, notes Dee Brewer, director of marketing for City Creek. He says Taubman calculated the 16-million-visit figure after studying local market conditions and influences.

            “If you think about where we are located downtown, we have a built-in, office-worker community that will visit regularly. Next, if you draw a circle around the center, there are those locals for whom we are the closest shopping destination. But then this center is unique in that we are ‘the downtown’ for a 150-mile radius. So we are going to draw day trippers from southern Idaho, from around the state of Utah and from parts of Wyoming,” he explains.

            Conventions, tourism and the Greatest Snow on Earth will also help bring out-of-state visitors to the site.

            Downtown retailers are not the only people giddy about the wraps coming off City Creek. Visit Salt Lake, the convention and visitors bureau, can’t wait for City Creek’s opening. “I don’t think I can say enough about how excited we are to have City Creek completed and our belief in what it will add to the visitor experience, from the leisure traveler to the convention attendee to the business traveler. It is the renaissance of downtown Salt Lake,” says Shawn Stinson, Visit Salt Lake’s director of communications.

            “Shopping is one of the top activities taken by nearly all travelers, from convention visitors to skiers to genealogists. We are trying to attract them all and anything that can enhance the experience of our downtown visitors will benefit everyone involved,” he says.

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