Under the leadership of Adam Price, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is thriving, more than tripling attendance over the past three years. Tori Baker has done an amazing job with audience development at the Broadway Centre Cinemas, creating millions of dollars of spin-off economic impact for local businesses.
The Gateway has several new tenants with more on the way. Main Street store fronts are filling up with bars, restaurants, unique retail shops and galleries. Walking down Main Street on a sunny afternoon feels vibrant, cosmopolitan and fun. The same could be said for Broadway and parts of West Temple, 100 and 200 South.
This year, Salt Lake City replaced aging way-finding signs with accurate directions and installed a new solar-powered parking system that lets you pay for on-street parking with a credit card. Yes, you can still pay with coins too, and soon, a new smart-phone app.
We’ve seen the growth of new, large employers filling up office buildings on Main Street, at The Gateway, in the Questar Center and through the rest of the city center.
Signature events like the Twilight Concert Series, Arts Festival and Farmers Market have grown to gargantuan proportions with fun new events like the Urban Flea Market, Tastemakers, and Nihon Matsuri Festival starting to coalesce.
Gallivan Plaza and The Leonardo have opened as new or improved downtown attractions, and major projects like the Moss Courthouse expansion, new public safety building, SLC Bike Share, an airport TRAX line, and Capitol Theater expansion/Ballet West rehearsal space will open soon.
Downtown is awash in new, daring, independent restaurants like Plum Alley, Pallet and Zy to name a few.
It’s a little mind-numbing to think about all the changes that have happened over the past few years. Mind numbing in a good way.
We should be proud about downtown as it stands today. And I am. As a community, we have done so much, so fast. And yet I am still hungry for more. Insatiable, really. There is so much we can and should be doing to leverage our momentum and keep downtown thriving.
Here are just a few examples: Gastronomy founder and city father Tom Guinney recently showed me the sorry state of some of our downtown sidewalks, covered with ugly black gum stains. We should take pride in our city center streets and clean the gum up. Like the quintessential shop keepers sweeping their front steps, we can all do more to maintain Salt Lake City’s reputation as a clean and safe city. Please, if you chew gum, throw it away in a garbage can and not on the sidewalk. The same goes for smokers and cigarette butts. It isn’t that hard.
A few downtown streets still feel sketchy. We can fix this and we should, with better lighting and more security. And there are still some abandoned buildings and surface parking lots that aren’t being used to their highest potential. We should make it easy to develop these parcels into vibrant residential, retail or commercial spaces.
Support for political leaders who will continue progress on projects like the Utah Performing Art Center, convention center hotel, downtown streetcar and year-round public market is also essential. Each of these projects has the potential to create a better quality of life, create a stronger downtown, and improve our economy. The time is right to make them all a reality.
Nothing is ever static. Cities are either rising or falling, but there is no stopping change. Our city is rising, making real progress really fast. It may be tempting for some people to think we can slow things down, take a break or feel like the city is “finished”. That is a dangerous trap. Great progress should lead to ever greater ambitions.
I’m comfortable with incremental progress, if that’s the best we can do. I know that complex projects take a while, and it’s worth spending some time to get things right. But I am also hungry for more.
As a downtown business community, the time is right to use our momentum to build a city center that makes people across the Intermountain West proud to call downtown their urban center and capital city. The time is right to continue to invest in our rising downtown.