Depot Vision | Urban Living

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Depot Vision

Posted By on February 5, 2020, 4:00 AM

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I love to garden. I lived in a condo with a deck for 15 years and had more than 40 pots outside, with a third of them dedicated to tomatoes, peas, beans and herbs. My wife moved in shortly after I bought the place and she started to like gardening, too. But, two years ago, she said she wanted a home with a yard. To make a long story short, we now have a home with a yard and garden, and can jams and freeze tomatoes all summer long. In the colder months, though, we go to the Winter Farmers Market hosted by the Downtown Alliance to get our veggies.

The market hopes to plan ahead, too. The state of Utah is moving its art and history collection to a new building behind the Capitol. The Utah State Historical Society staff in the Rio Grande Depot will move there. The vacant depot could possibly become our own version of Seattle's Pike Place Market. The Downtown Alliance (part of the Chamber of Commerce) has asked the Legislature to fund $300,000 for a feasibility study to see if the historic building is structurally sound enough to be used as a public market. Now this is an idea Republicans and Democrats should certainly agree upon.

Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and is easily one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington state. Our Rio Grande Depot was finished in 1910 and is full of mixed elements of Renaissance Revival and Beaux Arts architecture. It was actually built by the developer to compete with the Union Pacific Depot just a few blocks north at what is now The Gateway. (FYI, a hotel will be attached to the Union Pacific Depot in the next two years.) The high arched windows inside the depot were originally green glass to keep the interior passenger waiting areas cool, and there was a barber shop, a restaurant (now the Rio Grande Café), a men's smoking room and a women's lounge as well as a telegraph office to wire messages (pre-phone and internet days, kids). It was the main hub to send tens of thousands of soldiers off to World War I and II, but it became less used as the returning soldiers came home, got jobs and bought cars. The 1950s saw a decline in passenger train service because everyone wanted their own car and the economy was booming.

There's no guarantee that we'll get a downtown indoor-outdoor market in Salt Lake City but, boy, wouldn't that be a great use of that beautiful old building? It's not a new idea. Many city leaders and history buffs have talked about the idea for years and I can't personally think of a better use of that beautiful space.

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