We hope that the return comes from the community, the preservation of our heritage, our legacy in the downtown area and all that it means to a culture such as ours. —H. David Burton, the Presiding Bishop
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The Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said one of the main goals of the City Creek project has already been met.
"One of the paramount objectives was to try to instill a sense of economic confidence in investors (interested) in Salt Lake City, and that others would come forward (to) invest in jobs and homes in the downtown area," said H. David Burton, the Presiding Bishop of the church.
The $1.5 billion mixed-use project was developed by City Creek Reserve Inc. (CCRI) — a for-profit real estate company owned by the LDS Church. Including the City Creek project, roughly $4 billion to $5 billion of economic development is currently under way in the downtown area, Bishop Burton said.
"So we hope that the confidence level continues to escalate, and that more people are willing to invest and be a part of the capital city of Utah … to have a great and viable downtown," he said.
So has the project become the catalyst and foundation for economic optimism in Salt Lake City sought by the church?
"I think it largely has," he said.
Success of the project will be measured in long-term economic development rather than strictly financially. He said CCRI took on a fair amount of risk in underwriting the development using its own financial resources rather than borrowing, particularly given the limited expected return on investment.
"No one would undertake the City Creek project if the financial rewards were the only thing they were looking at because it will not "pencil out" to great return numbers," Bishop Burton said. "We hope that the return comes from the community, the preservation of our heritage, our legacy in the downtown area and all that it means to a culture such as ours."
He said concerns about potentially "losing money on the project" were considered along the way, but the long-term benefits outweighed the economic risk.
"We think it's important that we create the kind of atmosphere that people remember, like and observe in Salt Lake City," he said. "That's an intangible … but it's important. Because Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, it's important that it is 'dressed appropriately.'"
Bishop Burton said that the major objectives of the initial project vision have been met by the architects and design engineers, making the site a warm, interesting and inviting space that people will want to visit again and again as well as introducing new elements to downtown, elements he said represent the values of the LDS Church.
"We did get 500 residences downtown, we did improve the office environment downtown (and) certainly created a retail environment that will be second to none," he said. "This is the beginning of the future of Salt Lake. There is just a lot of vitality downtown, which … is going to continue to grow and mushroom."
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