Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A year ago, civic and business leaders pinned their hopes on a new shopping and dining “mecca” to bring downtown Salt Lake City out of the economic doldrums. Twelve months since its much publicized grand opening, those same people are happily singing its praises and satisfied that downtown is indeed rising to new heights.
“There are countless studies, and shopping is one of the top attractions for visitors,” said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “It’s the number one activity for people when they travel.”
Speaking at a news conference on the Skybridge above Main Street at City Creek Center, Beck said the fact that Salt Lake City now has an upscale shopping center with high-profile brands like Tiffany, Nordstrom and Macy’s in the downtown district serves as validation for those who consider Utah for tourism and business.
“If you’re a legitimate city, you have legitimate stores,” he said. “There really is a connection to that. Secondly, if you have an investment of this size in the city, it really shows that someone believes in our city. And that is contagious.”
Beck said that having such a prominent shopping and dining destination in the heart of downtown that is within easy access to hotels and the convention center has given Salt Lake a higher profile among cities of similar size.
It creates “buzz and destination appeal,” he said. Travelers now have more options to choose from compared to other winter resort destinations or convention sites.
“In Salt Lake, après ski is completely redefined,” Beck said. “(You) can go to a Jazz game, see the ballet, go to a world class shopping center and nine resorts within 45 minutes of downtown.”
Those attributes raise Salt Lake City’s "destination appeal,” and the proximity to the Salt Palace Convention Center has been critical in helping to attract new convention business, he said.
According to City Creek general manager Linda Wardell, the center attracted 16.2 million visits during the past 12 months.
“We have exceeded our traffic and sales goals,” she said. The center has also added 14 new stores since opening last March, she said.
Among the new retailers will be the state’s first Microsoft Store due to open April 11. Store leader Michael Reagan said the store would include an assortment of products and offer a range of technical trainings and workshops.
In addition, community organizations will be given complementary access to theater space at the store to host events, and store associates will venture out into the community to support local causes, Reagan said.
As City Creek Center heads into its second year of operation, city leaders are touting the development’s positive impact on the long-term economic viability of the central business district. According to the mayor’s office, the city has issued 600 new business licenses since 2010.
“The opening of City Creek established a new economic anchor in downtown and created new energy, vibrancy and distinction within Salt Lake City, while also enabling new employment and retail opportunities,” said Eric Shaw, Salt Lake City Community & Economic Development director. “It has served as a catalyst for growth and a model for the future of large scale, mixed-use development.”