What’s with this love affair with Nordstrom, anyway? For the past few months almost all anyone wants to talk about (not counting Iraq, Elizabeth Smart, Urban Meyer’s new offense, and 1st Amendment Lager) is Nordstrom’s proposed move to the Gateway. Our infatuation with Seattle-based companies like Starbucks, Diamond Parking and Nordstrom only feeds those who think that Salt Lake City really is a second-rate town. Maybe so, and it’s plain as day that we bend over backwards for companies that profit on the locals. Remember, Nordstrom pretty much replaced Auerbach’s.
What does Starbucks give back to us except acid reflux? Does Diamond Parking provide any service other than making sure anger-management professionals have a growing clientele? Nordstrom? Meier & Frank makes Nordstrom look like Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to good corporate citizenship. For example, Meier & Frank operates in the ZCMI Mall without government subsidy and recently spent $15 million of its own money on renovations. Guess where I’ll buy my next tie if I ever start wearing them?
Now it’s revealed that Nordstrom has inked a letter of intent with the Gateway to move its downtown store to that outdoor mall. They want to do it with dollars from the Gateway developer via a cash out from Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency, but let’s not split hairs—the dollars, all $16 million of them, are from you and me. They’re penciled in to build a structure and parking for a new 40,000-square-foot Nordstrom. Never mind that Gateway is contractually bound not to house stores of that size, the illegal document was signed anyway.
Our city council and mayor seem willing to let that happen. Just what gives here? Well, let’s see—out of nowhere, former Mayor Deedee Corradini and the Boyer Company announce plans to develop the near west side. While downtown property goes for nearly $3 million an acre, the Boyer Company snatched up the Gateway property at $400 thousand an acre. The race to the cash register had begun.
Good or bad, the Boyer Company excels in one critical area: They only use one kind of bait when fishing for politicians, and that bait is money. Their catch? Salt Lake City kicks in RDA money and tax subsidies. Salt Lake County joins in with county bonds to finance a new children’s museum and planetarium. Not to be left out of the Boyer love-fest, the State of Utah relocates the Board of Regents. Faster than you can say Morgan Stanley, SCT (formerly Campus Pipeline) and Barnes & Noble (companies which relocated to Gateway), the plunder of Salt Lake City area businesses moves forward. And it’s not over.
Mayor Rocky Anderson seems to be on the side of Nordstrom moving to Gateway, despite his famous phrase that a “deal is a deal.” Once a staunch advocate of Nordstrom staying downtown as a critical anchor, he now believes that Nordstrom was not dealt with fairly by the former owners of Crossroads Mall. So what! The new Crossroads owners, the LDS Church, have been fair and welcoming, but it’s clear the deal on the table—the money deal—is the only one that matters.
Let Nordstom go-—from downtown altogether. There are willing tenants for the Crossroads space. Gateway shouldn’t have them, and we won’t miss them. Good-bye Nordy. Hijack some other city.