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Asian attraction: South Salt Lake's Chinatown will offer food, culture, shopping and more

Published: Saturday, March 22 2008 12:13 a.m. MDT

SOUTH SALT LAKE — The South Salt Lake City Council and Planning Commission have given final approval to a Hong Kong company to create Utah's own Chinatown here.

The $20 million development is part of a commercial revolution in the city, said 23-year-old project manager Andrew So. The Salt Lake City Chinatown project will be built across the street from new fast food and coffee franchises and just blocks from a massive redevelopment project that will bring 18-story condominiums and trolley rails to South Salt Lake.

"2009 will be a great year for the Salt Lake County," said So, a New York University economics graduate. "It's changing and it's going to be exciting."

So is heading up the Utah operation for the Hong Kong-based Chinatown International Inc. His parents are major investors in the real-estate company, which has been building Asian-themed malls across the country.

In 2006, Utah's Asian population was about 51,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Asians make up about 2 percent of Utah's population, compared to about 4.4 percent nationally. The new mall is geared toward not only the area's Asians, but everyone else is welcome, too.

The Utah project will get under way within the next few months, So said.

His company is negotiating with construction companies that will refurbish the main building standing at 3390 S. State and install curb, gutter and landscaping.

The development could be completed in as early as nine months, said South Salt Lake City Planner Michael Florence. Grand-opening celebrations would then take place in late summer or fall 2009.

"The image of South Salt Lake is really changing," Florence said. "Growth is heading here, downtown, again."

The project will replace a large dilapidated building and acres of cracked and bumpy pavement surrounded on all sides by chain-link fencing.

The developer is "improving a site in the city that is long overdue for redevelopment," according to planning commission documents about the project.

South Salt Lake Mayor Bob Gray is thrilled about the project, which will be completed without public subsidies of any kind. The project will add to the city's tax base, bring in new, high-end customers and will help solve problems with crime and blight, he said.

"I think this will be a huge Western-states draw," he said.


E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com

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