After the 2002 Winter Olympics, much of the retail space on Salt Lake City's historic Main Street was vacant and downtown's two major malls -- the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Mall -- were bleeding businesses. The environment in the central business district was anything but vibrant.
The opening of The Gateway retail development in 2001 brought in approximately 80 new retailers, but perhaps it also exaggerated Main Street's decline by shifting the center of retail several blocks away from the city's central core.
Then came City Creek. The two malls, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, were razed and the massive $1.5 billion City Creek Center, a mixed-use development that includes a 700,000 square-foot retail center, offices, condos and apartments on 23 acres, was constructed in the center of the city.
During its four-year construction, the City Creek development created approximately 4,000 jobs -- many of them at a time when Utah's construction industry was in turmoil, having been decimated by the global economic recession. Indeed, City Creek provided significant work for three major Utah construction companies: Jacobsen Construction (EDCUtah investor), Big D Construction (EDCUtah investor) and Okland Construction. It also provided work for numerous architects, engineers, consultants and others in peripheral businesses, all at a time when local, state and national economies were imploding.
Last week, amidst great fanfare and publicity, City Creek Center (dubbed the "Mormon mega-mall" by BusinessWeek) officially opened, but when the development was announced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2006 it drew both skepticism and elation. Nonetheless, its construction was just the recipe for a renaissance of Salt Lake's central core and the fiscal impacts may well be enormous, especially considering that Taubman Centers, which owns the retail portion of City Creek, projects 16 million visits to the Center annually. Based upon such visits, some estimates place retail sales volume at City Creek's 100 stores and restaurants to be approximately $250 million to $300 million annually. Such retail sales will be a boon to Salt Lake City's budget, as the city's portion of sales taxes could be well over $1 million annually.
Retailers within City Creek employ approximately 2,000 workers; another 6,000 people work in office buildings around the development. Additional jobs are being created downtown thanks to what Bob Farrington, economic development director for the City of Salt Lake, describes as City Creek's "spillover effect." For example, 26 non-City Creek businesses opened their doors in the Central Business District in 2010. Another 20 new business opened their doors in 2011.
Businesses that have opened downtown since the beginning of 2012 include:
- Pallet, a contemporary American bistro, opened in February at 237 W. 400 South, next to The Rose Est. coffee shop.
- Harmon's grocery store opened in February on the corner of State Street and 100 South.
- Ray's Barber Shop opened a second location at 154 S. Main in early March.
- 10,000 Villages, a shop featuring fair-trade products from 130 artisan groups in 38 countries, opened in February at 120 S. Main in the former Downtown Rising office.
- Café Metro, a coffee shop and café, opened in January in the lower level of the Metro Condos at 350 S. 200 East.
- Roula's Café moved from the old Questar building into the former T's Grill location within the lobby of the Ken Garff building on the corner of 400 S. Main.
- Plum Alley, a new Asian-inspired restaurant by the owner of Copper Onion, opened in January in the former Sicilia Pizza location, 221 E. Broadway.
- Pebbles & Twiggs, a furniture consignment store, opened in January in the former Zim's location, 150 S. State Street.
Soon to Open
Other businesses soon to open downtown include:
- Manhattan Finds, an upscale consignment shop, in the former Souvenir Stop location at 149 S. Main Street.
- Eborn Books is moving to the former Sam Weller's location at 254 S. Main (Coffee Garden is staying).
- Shapiro Luggage is moving back downtown into the US Bank building at 170 S. Main.
- Questar is moving its operations into a new building at 333 S. State.
- Mountain America Credit Union is opening an office on the retail level of the new Questar Building.
- Word on the street has it that Wingers restaurant will also open on the retail level of the new Questar building this spring.
- JMR Chalk Garden is renovating the Crandall Building on the corner of 100 S. Main and plans to open early in April in the former See's Candy space.
- Starbucks is also moving into Crandall Building and will open this spring.
- Grilla Bites, a shop that serves natural and organic soups, salads and sandwiches, will open on Gallivan Avenue this spring.
- Bangkok Terrace, a Thai restaurant, will also open on Gallivan Avenue this spring.
- Co2 Café will open mid-summer in the former Deseret Lounge space at 323 South Main Street.
Farrington says the retail spaces in the front of the Utah Theatre on Main Street are now full. And while a few businesses transitioned from The Gateway to City Creek, The Gateway is adding new businesses as well. Businesses that have opened recently in The Gateway include:
- Bettie Page
- Epic Board Shop
- Francesca's Collection
- G-Star Raw
- Costa Vida
- Wing Nutz
"It's a great time to be downtown," Farrington adds.
Word on the Street
In other developments, according to word on the street, the Tribune Building, which is owned by InterNet Properties, Inc. (an EDCUtah investor), may be redeveloped and the announcement of a major technology tenant may be forthcoming.
And now that City Creek is complete, local leaders hope that plans for a downtown convention hotel move forward. Farrington says a convention hotel would be a complimentary development to City Creek. Further, the construction of such a convention hotel could create approximately 4,270 jobs and generate approximately $214 million in earnings, according to a Salt Lake County estimate.
The City Creek Center has other peripheral benefits: for shoppers, downtown retailers and businesses, the 5,000 subterranean parking stalls under the Center free up street-level parking on the adjacent blocks for other users and buildings. Further, the Center is expected to be a big boon to Salt Lake City's convention and visitor business, since most visitors, be they tourists, business travelers, or convention attendees, are also shoppers. Salt Lake City's downtown ecosystem now offers an enhanced visitor experience with world-class shopping.
One interesting economic twist: the Deseret News recently reported that customers of high-end jeweler Tiffany & Co. -- one of numerous new-to-Utah stores located in City Creek Center -- are likely buying gold and silver mined in Utah at Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.'s Bingham Canyon Mine. (EDCUtah investor Rio Tinto owns Kennecott.)
According to the Deseret News story, the mine produces approximately 3-5 million ounces of silver a year and 300,000 to 500,000 ounces of gold. Tiffany & Co. "purchased about half of all of the silver mined at Bingham last year and around 5 percent of gold mined at the facility."