Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson says he's "softened" his opposition to a skybridge in the city's heart, but he still wants city planners to take a hard look at whether it threatens Main Street's vitality.

The above-ground pedestrian walkway, proposed by developers working with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on its downtown redevelopment project, runs counter to a 1990 downtown master plan and a 1995 document promoting urban design.

Both documents call for the city to prevent skybridges that would keep pedestrians off city streets and that would block views. The Main Street view corridor, looking toward Ensign Peak, is specifically cited in the documents.

But Taubman Centers Inc., which is planning the 20-acre City Creek Center retail-office-residential development, has said it needs the bridge to make the project viable.

The bridge would run between the centers of the two blocks — which currently house the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza — giving shoppers easy access to two stories of retail.

"In the past, I've expressed my belief that we should adhere to those prior plans," Anderson said Monday. "But I'm approaching this with an open mind, so long as we get far more public input and get an idea of exactly what we're talking about in terms of the skybridge, including what's being contemplated to bring more life to the street."

The Planning Commission on Wednesday is set to discuss — and possibly vote on — the skybridge. Officially, commissioners would be passing a recommendation to the City Council on whether to amend the urban-design and master plans to make way for exceptions to the skybridge prohibition. Those exceptions would require that:

• All possible alternatives to the skybridge have been ruled out as unfeasible.

• The design would not block a view corridor.

• The bridge would not detract from pedestrian activity at the street level.

The city's planning division has issued a report recommending that the commission support the amendments.

"We're definitely recommending to the Planning Commission that they forward a positive recommendation to the council that the master plans be amended with the proposed language and criteria," deputy planning director Doug Wheelwright said. The report is officially neutral on the City Creek Center skybridge, which would have to be evaluated under those criteria, he added.

But Anderson sees the report as paving the way for the Main Street bridge, and he calls that "premature, in that no one seems to have fully considered or analyzed the tremendous amount of time and the comprehensive public policy" that went into the '90s-era plans.

"You're segregating people — those in the shopping areas and those on the street. You're basically isolating people inside the shopping areas, and that's the only real purpose of the skybridge," Anderson said. "There's very substantial considerations concerning the view corridor. This will alter for a very long time the view up and down Main Street."

Final approval — regardless of the commission's actions — rests with the council, and some members have expressed early support for the skybridge. Anderson said Monday that the council has the final say, unless he vetoes their decision.

Pressed as to whether he would plan a veto, Anderson reiterated that he is keeping "an open mind" on the matter.


E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com