February 1, 2012

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Urban Renaissance

City Creek Center Reawakens a Lackluster Downtown

Gaylen Webb

February 1, 2012

            Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, believes the opening of City Creek is not only reshaping downtown Salt Lake City but also creating a contagious sense of optimism and enthusiasm for the rest of the central business district. “We have seen projects like the O.C. Tanner flagship store, JoS. A Bank Clothiers, and more than 60 other small businesses open downtown in the last two years as people gear up for City Creek’s opening,” he explains.

            To add to the excitement, this month Harmons will open its newest grocery store at 100 S. 200 East on the south side of Social Hall Avenue, near the eastern edge of the City Creek Center. The 67,000-square-foot store was designed with the urban shopper in mind and features an environmentally friendly, two-story layout.

            In addition to the retail development, Mathis notes that the downtown office scene has also been influenced by City Creek. He says the developer of the 22-story 222 Main office tower (which opened in 2009) “told us they would not have moved forward with that office project without the investment being made in City Creek Center. The City Creek development has given the city a sense of investment that few other cities have had in the past few years.”

            Bob Farrington, economic development director for Salt Lake City, says City Creek is also helping to spawn residential development nearby. The city’s redevelopment agency is currently working with developer The LaPorte Group on a $30 million affordable housing project that is revitalizing a portion of State Street between the Broadway Center and the Parkside Office Building.

A Rising Tide

With three retail centers downtown—The Gateway, Trolley Square and the City Creek Center, plus the various other shopping malls in the valley—many wonder if Salt Lake is big enough to support that much retail. However, the consensus among city leaders is “a rising tide floats all boats.”

            “City Creek is growing the market share of people coming downtown, not dividing it,” says Farrington.

            Mathis agrees, adding that downtown Salt Lake City can certainly support multiple vibrant shopping destinations. “We see these centers as being complementary and creating greater synergy for downtown shoppers,” he explains. “And having a TRAX line that connects City Creek and The Gateway will create additional opportunities for cross shopping while offering distinct shopping experiences at both centers.”

            Mathis suggests there may be a period of adjustment, but each shopping center should remain healthy because each has a distinct personality that appeals to a certain demographic.

            “We see across the country that more retail draws more shoppers, so we believe City Creek will be a positive thing for downtown,” says Brewer. “We have different assets in some ways. The Gateway has a lot of entertainment amenities, which gives it certain opportunities…We have done extensive research to understand Utah shoppers and we have programmed this center accordingly.”

            Farrington also believes there could be a little “shuffling of the deck” of existing businesses and their customers after City Creek opens, but says that should quickly even out. “The company that owns The Gateway, Inland-Western, is perhaps the second-biggest real estate investment trust in the world—a big player in the industry—and as such certainly has the wherewithal to repurpose or reposition The Gateway in response to City Creek and other opportunities the company sees.”

            Heather Nash, The Gateway’s director of marketing, recognizes that there is always a curiosity factor with the opening of any new center. Nonetheless, she says The Gateway has established itself as “downtown’s premiere shopping and dining destination, and if there are other venues that can draw people downtown, that is a positive for The Gateway.”

            Further, she says The Gateway has enjoyed a decade of strong consumer traffic, sales and community engagements, in conjunction with a variety of shops and attractions like the Megaplex 12 Theaters, The Children’s Museum and the Clark Planetarium.

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