Back from the Dead? New Mall Revitalizes Downtown Salt Lake City

Wasn't the era of the shopping mall supposed to be over? City Creek Center, the retractable roof-topped luxury shopping center financed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is being credited with breathing new life into Salt Lake City.
July 18, 2013, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"[City Creek Center], which opened a little more than a year ago, is the centerpiece of a mixed-use development that was financed entirely by the [Mormon] church, which spent, by any estimate, hundreds of millions of dollars," reports Caitlin Kelly. "Although the combination of commerce and religion in this case may seem unusual, business leaders and developers credit the mall with spurring new business and enlivening what had been the faded core of Salt Lake City, home to 189, 900."

"The 'mall is the single most important thing to happen to Salt Lake City in 50 years, maybe more,' said Bruce Bingham, a partner with Hamilton Partners, a Chicago-based real estate developer. 'It revitalized downtown.'”

The church-financed mall isn't without its critics however. "Derek Staffanson, 39, a Mormon and a local resident, said he had mixed feelings about the mall project. 'In theory, I find nothing wrong with the idea of a religious institution developing the area,' he said. 'Churches have a long history of contributing to the civic amenities of their communities.'”

“But in practice, I’m very disappointed with the manner in which the L.D.S. church chose to develop the area, the use to which they put it, and what that implies about the church’s priorities,” Mr. Staffanson said. “If they had really been concerned about the local community and ending the blight, they would have built a mixed-income, mixed-use community, focusing on developing local entrepreneurship, community centers and resources, a playground, more like the true walkable urban communities in Europe. That would have truly revitalized the local community, creating more prosperity for all.

“For this huge sum of money to be spent on an edifice for commerce and conspicuous consumption seems at best misguided.”

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Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 in The New York Times
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