A Vision for Downtown

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is thinking it might be about time to come up with a master plan to help direct the development of downtown Salt Lake City. With massive redevelopment being planned by the church in various areas, and other companies planning on building new skyscrapers, and no new plan since the 1960's, I would have to agree. There are some things that make some downtowns in the West particularly exciting places...so I wanted to offer my thoughts on what we could do here:

Seattle: While I know that we are not a port city with tons of water and lakes everywhere and fresh shipments of fish every hour on the hour, I would like to see something like Pike's Place market...a year-round farmer's market type place with lots of fresh local fare, crafts and goods. It could be set up similar to the Caputo's Market area...with little shops of all different flavors, bakeries and plenty of variety.

Tempe: With statues on every corner, theaters that host Broadway touring musicals, little boutiques, a tasty variety of restaurants and clubs that pulse late into the night, Salt Lake could learn a lesson or two from the art-friendly, pedestrian-oriented and youth-centered set-up of downtown Tempe, AZ, which is adjacent to Arizona State University. A thriving downtown should have a thriving night scene, and plenty of interesting things to see as you walk from a showing of Rent to your favorite cantina. And without attracting the area's youth, as Tempe does, downtown will always remain dull and drab.

Portland: My favorite thing about this city was the amazing amounts of restaurants with outdoor seating. From high-class cuisine to mid-street deli's, everyone had a table outside. With the great weather we enjoy in Utah from March to November, restaurants in downtown Salt Lake could take a clue from Portland and keep the streets alive from lunch through closing time by putting diners out where they can see and be seen. Plus, I'd love to see Sam Wellers books expand to be a Powell's rival.

Minneapolis: Okay, I know this isn't the West to those of us who live here, but this town is one of the most beautiful I have visited. It boasts over three miles of biking/walking/running trails. Of course, the river makes trails easier, but it might do downtown SLC good to better develop the trails in Memory Grove and City Creek (and the Jordan Parkway) and find a way to connect more with the natural world around us. Whether that is putting a bit more landscaping on our city streets or building a few more parks in the downtown area, or perhaps looking more into the hair-brained idea of bringing City Creek back up to the surface, I'm not sure. Or, look at the success of the Gateway (which reminds me a lot of Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall) Olympic Fountain. Incorporating the natural world through the use of trees, plants, flowers and water (preferrably in as natural a way as possible) is a sure-fire way to make your downtown more livable and attractive to visitors.

I'm open to comments from anyone on their favorite Western cities and what makes them so great...and of course, ideas on how SLC could incorporate those ideas in a meaningful way.

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