It’s windy up here on top of the world.
Robert S. Taubman, “Bobby” to everyone he greets, is working to keep his three-button jacket from flapping around and forcing a smile for the camera amid the bluster. It’s six months before City Creek Center opens for business, and this photo shoot atop the adjoining 30-story Promontory condo tower is Taubman’s first close-up for a Utah camera. “It’s about creating surprise and excitement for people,” he says. “This shopping center will be like nothing Utah has ever seen.”
The Taubman name is new to Utah, but it’s the moniker behind the premier retail development company in the United States. Taubman specializes in creating high-end shopping centers that often dovetail with large redevelopment efforts like the construction of City Creek Center. If you’ve ever been to the Cherry Creek area in Denver, you’ve been in a Taubman mall.
Taubman himself grew up in the mall business, following his father around. ”When my family went on picnics we’d go to the shopping centers or to construction sites,” he chuckles.
Now 57, Taubman formally entered the family business after graduating from Boston University. He worked around the country in various roles, from property manager to leasing agent, learning the business from every angle. If there were an MBA degree in mall development, Bobby Taubman has earned it. “It’s both a real estate and a retail business,” he says. “But it’s also a planning and architecture and design business, a construction business, a finance business. And I’ve had to learn all these different disciplines.”
City Creek Center opens March 22. Taubman is tightlipped about all the festivities, but notes his family’s company has never missed an opening, ever. Case in point: Just four days after 9/11, the International Plaza Center in Tampa, Fla. was set to open. “It was a hard time, but there was this sense that we needed to go on,” he says. “I know it’s just a mall to some people, but we felt like it was important to open.”
To make matters even more challenging, a tropical storm had downed trees and caused flooding. It was not, at first, an auspicious occasion. So on that day, 100 or so people, mostly employees and construction workers, gathered to open the mall.
And Taubman sang. “I sang The Star Spangled Banner and cut the ribbon,” he says. “It was such an emotional moment for America. And then something amazing happened. By noon, the storm had passed. The whole town was closed, except for us, and the people turned out. We had 250,000 people come through that weekend while we were picking up palm trees and had SWAT teams on the rooftops. People just wanted to be around other people, and I was proud that we’d made our opening day so they’d have a place to come.”
Taubman will be on hand for the opening in SLC and hopes Utahns will enjoy the center as much as he has enjoyed its creation. No word on whether he’ll sing.