A look back and forward

One day we were trudging across Main Street shuffling between Crossroads Mall and the ZCMI Center in our Mr. Mac suits and Copper Rivet T-shirts, just playing at city. We shopped at Weinstocks, played tea in the Tiffin Room and at fashion in Nordstrom’s Bailiwick. Meanwhile, Main Street struggled and gasped as the unborn TRAX tore up the place and the bunker-like malls locked away window shoppers. But then, one day, TRAX was moving and the malls dwindled and died in the wake of The Gateway, which invigorated our city’s western flank. The Salt Lake Tribune left Main Street but City Weekly set up shop across the way from KUTV News. The malls’ walls came down and a new city came up from the rubble. The jury is still out on the promises of openness and daylight that were made when the first spade of dirt was turned on City Creek Center. Will it promote pedestrian movement down Main Street, unlike the malls it replaced? Or is this latest “reinvention” of Main Street just another version of a mall? Either way, Salt Lake City is no longer a civic curiosity. It is a destination.


Meet the New Mall

The City Creek Center was to be not just any mall, but a beacon of a city renewed. The past resurfaced with roads of yesteryear and a flowing creek—a tribute to the center’s namesake creek—runs through the mall, connecting the city’s past and its hopeful future as a lively and active city center. Said to be one of the largest and most impressive retail developments happening across the country, the center boasts a fancy retractable roof that transforms an outdoor mall into an indoor structure in four minutes, with the Mormon Church—and principal owner—dishing out $1.5 billion to create an urban center worthy of a bona fide city (albeit with the peculiar taint of a doctrine-driven approach for running a mall). Offices and condos sit atop the 700,000-square-foot shopping center, with the likes of Jon Huntsman Jr. planning to take up residence, although the slowest real estate market in decades casts the promise of a true urban neighborhood further into the future. Luxury shopping, the return of Nordstrom, plus an impressive roster of newcomers like Coach, Tiffany & Co. and Michael Kors, among others, may reinvigorate Main Street. And Harmons has stepped in as City Creek’s neighbor, putting a critical finishing touch on urban living with easy (no car needed!) access to a full grocery store. The urban ideal of live, shop, play is banking on City Creek Center.

Not Crossroads, Not ZCMI Center:New-to-market and familiar shops plant flags in City Creek Center

77 Kids by American Eagle, Ann Taylor, BCBG Max Azria, The Limited, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Cotton On, Love Culture, Macy’s, Michael Kors, N3L Optics, Nordstrom, Porsche Design, L’Occitane, Lush, Pandora, Swarovski, Tiffany & Co., Bose, among others.

Will City Creek Center Promote Pedestrian Movement down Main Street, unlike the malls it replaced?


Ding, ding, ding goes... the lightrail? Yep, we’ve come full circle in Salt Lake City. From the streetcars of the late 1800s to the decades-long monopoly of the car and minivan, SLC’s mass transit system has evolved beyond the bus. The 2002 Olympics may have been the catalyst for TRAX, but in the decade since the torch went dark, the city’s lightrail system has laid tracks from the heart of downtown to the far-flung corners of the valley, and will soon connect to the airport. Ridership may not rival that of bustling metropolises like New York City and Boston, but just try finding an empty seat during rush hour or after a Jazz game. All this and pedicabs, too.


In the 1980s, Crossroads Plaza and the ZCMI Center served us well, filling our Hot Dog on a Stick and Mrs. Fields cookie needs. We went to Breakfast with Santa at the Tiffin Room and got our tapes at Sam Goody. Z. Cavaricci jeans at ZCMI and designer shoes at Nordsrom. No fancy skywalk, like the new bridge connecting the eastern and western arms of City Creek Center, melded the Mormon-centric ZCMI Center with the gentile-oriented Crossroads. Instead the crossing served as a hangout for the teenage punk culture. Demolition of the dying malls began in 2006 to make way for City Creek Center, which has kept Nordstrom—and Crossroads flagship—in its spot on the west side of Main Street and Macy’s, the ZCMI successor, on the eastern flank. Things change; they stay the same.


When it comes to the evolution of retail in SLC,The Gateway started it all. Although met initially with vigorous protest from Main Street merchants who predicted it would kill downtown, The Gateway pushed the border of the city further west and redefined what it means to be a downtown mall. The walls came down and the ceiling opened up, creating an outdoor shopping center surrounded—quite literally—by the city itself. The Salt Lake Tribune set up shop, and Discovery Gateway—successor to the Children’s Museum—moved in. What had been a dark eddy on the edge of town joined the city and was transformed into an active California-like shopping destination, in spite of SLC’s un-California-like weather. 

OLD SLC, MR. DOWNTOWN: Richard Wirick, aka "Mr. Downtown" and owner of the Oxford Shop. "We're renewing the spirit of downtown. It's not just the new mall, but condos and a grocery store. The people living here might never leave downtown—they wouldn't have to."

NEW SLC, THE CONCERT MAN: Casey Jarman, Salt Lake Arts Council. "People want to see a hipper Salt Lake. They are energetic and are supporting more things. They are challenging their interests and are more diverse than they used to be. There are a lot of avenues here, and to be part of that is to live life in a more engaged way."

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