How Salt Lake City Maintained a Vibrant Downtown

Unlike other major cities, the Utah capital’s downtown has seen a steady stream of visitors even as demand for office space diminishes.

1 minute read

December 8, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah with snow-capped mountains in background.

Andrew / Adobe Stock

“A study from the University of Toronto earlier this year found that Salt Lake’s downtown had had the strongest post-pandemic recovery in unique-visitor foot traffic of any city in the country, based on cellphone data.” Alan Greenblatt describes the city’s success in an article for Governing, outlining just how the Utah capital managed to boost the economy of its downtown district despite the changes wrought by the pandemic and remote work.

According to Greenblatt, “What Salt Lake City has that its immediate neighbors lack are cultural amenities and tourism.” As Greenblatt explains, “The region’s office space is spread out to other parts of the city, as well as neighboring jurisdictions, making Salt Lake less office dependent.” In 2022, 61 percent of people visiting the central business district were there for reasons other than work. 

The city’s downtown and surrounding areas are also adding more housing. “Salt Lake City’s housing plan sets a goal of 10,000 new units by the end of 2027, with a high concentration of that growth set for downtown.” According to Brookings Institution researcher Tracy Hadden Loh, “Overall, housing accessibility to the downtown is clearly structurally higher in Salt Lake City than in other regions.”

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