But the completion of City Creek Center, says Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, was but one project in what he anticipates will foreshadow an explosion of development downtown.
Topping the Downtown Alliance’s list of priorities for the upcoming year, Mathis said, is “taking downtown to the next level” with increased residential development and efforts to “make it easier to develop downtown.”
A statewide phone survey of 405 residents provides a snapshot of Utahns’ perception of downtown. This is important to gauge, Mathis said, because downtown is a “statewide asset and it’s important that the residents of the state feel like that.”
The survey shows that 77 percent of respondents have a positive impression of downtown. And in 2013, 53 percent—up from 44 percent the year before—said they felt an ownership and connection with downtown.
The survey also asked residents what factors might make them live downtown. The majority of respondents, 39 percent, said nothing could convince them to live downtown. But 11 percent—the largest percentage for a factor other than miscellaneous—said a lower cost of living downtown would make them consider living there.
Though Mathis said the Downtown Alliance isn’t involved in significant efforts to rein in costs of living, he indicated that developers have complained that a sharp rise in development impact fees that go toward funding infrastructure improvements and parks must be addressed.
In particular, Mathis said, an impact fee for parks was raised in Salt Lake City from $681 per new residential unit to $2,875. Meanwhile, he noted, only three percent of respondents in the survey said more open space downtown was important to them.
Impact fees or not, Mathis said no fewer than 1,000 residential units have recently sprung up on the eastern edge of downtown, some of which he said are slated for workforce housing.
In downtown, several big projects are afoot. On the corner of 100 South and 200 East is the 101 tower, a 144,000 square-foot structure aimed at high-end office space.
A 24-story office tower adjacent to the City Creek Center at 111 South Main St. is underway. Mathis said the tower’s “striking architecture” will “dramatically change the skyline.” The tower will add 440,452 square-feet of office space. At 151 State Street, and 18-story office building is planned, while the Broadway Media Center, located at 50 West Broadway, will bring all of the radio stations owned by the Broadway Media Group, like X96, downtown.
In 2013, the vacancy rate of office space dropped to 16.7 percent from 17.1 percent in the year prior.
On the residential side, an additional 460 units are scheduled for construction.
Linda Wardell, general manager of City Creek Center, said the mall has surpassed its own lofty projections on sales. However, Wardell declined to say exactly how much money the church’s shopping area, which by some estimates cost more than $1.5 billion to build, rakes in.
Wardell, chairwoman of the Downtown Alliance’s board, says City Creek and the planned additional development has gone a long way toward making downtown more vibrant.
“Our downtown is really fundamentally different than it was just a few years ago,” she said.