Salt Lake City Bucks Downtown Decline Trend

The city’s central business district is bustling with more activity than before the pandemic.

2 minute read

July 25, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of Salt Lake City skyline

SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock

Based on an analysis of cell phone data, downtown Salt Lake City is seeing a stronger recovery than any U.S. city, reports Jared Brey in Governing. The study showed a 139 percent increase in downtown activity between March and May of this year as compared to the same period in 2019.

While there are several ways to measure ‘recovery,’ Karen Chapple, director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, says “when it comes down to it, the whole picture is given by humans being downtown.”

What worked in Salt Lake City? “Researchers say Utah did a relatively good job managing the pandemic, especially in terms of limiting economic damage,” Brey explains. “Ana Valdemoros, a Salt Lake City councilmember who represents the downtown, also says the city’s financial management helped set it up to avoid laying off public workers and to better support businesses in the early days of the pandemic.”

The region around Salt Lake City also has a diverse economy that drives the growth of the entire state.  While neighboring states are generally specialized in industries like gaming or energy production, “Utah also has strong tech, tourism, agriculture, distribution, health and education sectors.”

Brey adds that downtown SLC has fewer residents than many other big cities, but over 3,000 housing units are currently under construction. Meanwhile, “State and local officials have been working to offset the growth in housing costs by passing bills to support new affordable housing and loosen zoning rules to permit more housing construction.”

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