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Downtown Salt Lake City is usually defined as the area approximately between North Temple and 900 South Streets north to south and about 500 East and 600 West Streets east to west. Downtown encompasses the areas of Temple Square, the Gateway District, Main Street, the core business district, South Temple, and others.
Much of downtown Salt Lake City's early history is intertwined with that of Salt Lake itself at the time. Downtown began to form when Brigham Young chose the spot where the temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to be located.
The early Mormon Pioneers, who originally settled in Salt Lake City, adopted a form of consecration whereby crops grown and products produced were divided among LDS Church members in ward-houses. This enabled new settlers to have the food and products they needed after they made the rigorous journey to Salt Lake City. This exchange was eventually organized into what would become ZCMI.
The first businesses to locate on Main Street were those founded by James A. Livingston and Charles A. Kincade, in 1850, in the area south of the Council House that was being built on the corner of Main and South Temple Streets. The Mormon Pioneers lived a very secluded existence in the remote Salt Lake Valley for the first 20 years of settlement. However, in 1865 U.S. troops stationed in Park City discovered silver and announced it to the world.
With this announcement, an entirely new element began streaming into Salt Lake City. Prospectors completely changed the downtown district. In accommodation of the new crowd, many of the Main Street businesses were saloons, earning the street the nickname "Whiskey Street".
For many years, there existed a political and cultural divide in Salt Lake City. L.D.S members would mostly shop and congregate around their temple and Z.C.M.I on the North-end of Main Street and non-members, who were mostly prospectors in the early days, would stay South of the predominantly Mormon area.
Originally, the business district extended along the west side of Main between South Temple and 100 South. By the 1880s, the area had expanded to both sides of the street and down to 200 South, and increased about a block a decade, until 1900, when it reached 400 South. Today, the southern limit of Salt Lake City is usually considered 900 South.
From 1870 to the 1930s, Commercial Street (renamed Regent Street in the 1920s) was Salt Lake's notorious red light district. Prostitution was begrudgingly tolerated as long as it was confined to Commercial Street, thus kept out of the public eye.
In the late 1880s, the trade was unofficially licensed. Police would "arrest" all of the prostitutes and their madams each month and "fine" them $50 each. After a physical examination, they would be released and allowed to ply their trade without any further fear of molestation.
Many notable Salt Lakers owned buildings on Commercial Street, including the Brigham Young Trust Company, whose board included many prominent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Brigham Young, Jr., then a church Apostle and vice president of the bank, temporarily resigned over the matter, until the building was later sold.
Starting in the 1960s, revitalization efforts began, spearheaded by the LDS Church, who had always considered downtown their home. During the '60s, they built the ZCMI Center Mall on a full city block of land that had previously housed the ZCMI department store, preserving the historic storefront. The Church also leased land to a developer to build Crossroads Mall. The land for the mall originally housed the Amusen Jewelry building (1869), at the time Salt Lake City's oldest building. A study commissioned by the city found it to be Salt Lake City's most architecturally significant building, and efforts to preserve it were underway. However, before the building could be saved, it was torn down to make way for the mall.
Also built during this era was the LDS Church Office Building, completed in 1973, which at that time was Salt Lake's tallest building at 28 floors. However, this was surpassed in 1999 by the American Stores Tower (now known as the Wells Fargo Center). Although it has fewer floors, it is taller than the Church Office Building by two feet, although the Church Office Building appears taller because it is located on higher ground.
from 1970-1976 the Central Main Street shopping district saw a dramatic shift from the South-end (near Exchange Place and Broadway) to the North-end (near the L.D.S Temple). This shift was the result of a change in buying patterns, with shoppers preferring malls rather than on-street department stores. Using land and a loan provided by Zion Securities, the second Main Street mall was completed in 1978. Following the completion of the Crossroads Mall the South-end of main street collapsed, beginning with 117-year-old merchant Auerbachs Department Store. Others to go under were Broadway Music, Paris Company, Baker Shoes, Pembrokes, Keith O'Brien and Keith Warshaw.
In the 1980s, a group of Saudi businessmen had a vision of turning Salt Lake City into major business hub. Forming a U.S. holdings company, "Triad Utah", they planned to build two large skyscrapers, as well as smaller out-buildings. The company ran out of money and the skyscrapers never materialized, leaving the current Triad Center with only buildings 3, 4 and 5. Revitalization efforts of downtown continued through the 1990s and 2000s. The old Salt Palace arena was torn down and a new arena, the Delta Center (now EnergySolutions Arena), was constructed to the northwest in 1991. A convention center of the same name was built on the site. In 1998 the Wells Fargo Center was completed and remains the tallest building in Salt Lake City today (although the LDS Church Office Building appears taller because it stands on higher ground). In 2000, the LDS Conference Center was completed and supplanted the still-existing Salt Lake Tabernacle for conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Gateway District, which contains office space, apartment complexes, and an open-air shopping center, was completed in 2001 near the western edge of downtown, replacing an old, run-down industrial area near the railroad. LDS Business College as well as the BYU Salt Lake Center will also be moved downtown to the Triad Center, which was also purchased by the LDS Church in 2004. In 2007, the newest high-rise known as the 222 South Main building began construction. The 21 story building is expected to be completed in July 2009.
City Creek Center
City Creek Center is a retail, office and residential development being constructed on nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) across three blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. Construction is scheduled to last five years. When completed in 2012, the project will include nearly 725,000 square feet (67,400 m2) of retail space, new and refurbished office towers, new residential buildings, and a full-service grocery store.
Pioneer Park, on the western edge of downtown, has developed a reputation as one of the most crime-ridden areas of the state, and also has a high rate of drug dealers. During a six-day crackdown in early November, 2007, 658 people were arrested in and around the park, approximately 70% of all arrests made in the city during that time period in an area that takes up just 1% of Salt Lake City. Pioneer Park was completely renovated in early 2008 following several severe assault incidents. As a result of the renovation and previous addition of a city police substation adjacent to the park, crime has steadily gone down in the area.
- ↑ Reavy, Pat (November 15, 2007). "Drugs targeted in Pioneer Park". Deseret Morning News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695227894,00.html. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance
- Utah Stories: A History of downtown Salt Lake City told from the perspective of the long-time local merchants