Sugar House boxing gym takes a swing against streetcar

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 8:05 p.m. MDT

Brenda Nibley and her son, Eliott, protest against the streetcar line proposed to run along 1100 East in Sugar House on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The two women behind a popular gym on 1100 East came out swinging Wednesday against the proposed streetcar extension that would take the new transit line past their front door.

"We live and breathe on this street. … We know the functionality of this street, as opposed to some study that somebody did that has no idea how this street thrives," said Eliza James, part owner of Boxing Is For Girls gym.

James contends she and her neighbors first heard about the proposed extension of the Sugar House streetcar line three weeks ago and weren't consulted in the planning stages.

The first phase of the streetcar line is expected to begin operating by the end of the year, carrying passengers between the TRAX stop at 2100 South and Fairmont Park at 1040 East.

About two dozen opponents of the streetcar, mostly with connections to the gym, stood along 1100 East on Wednesday in a small but scrappy protest. They held signs asking Salt Lake City Council members by name to vote against the extension, while others took turns with cellphones to call the council members personally.

"Stan Penfold, we are your people," read one sign. "Kyle LaMalfa, political courage," said another.

James moved up and down the street, alternating between encouraging the protesters, talking to passersby and leading an improvised, outdoor workout for gym participants.

"What we're trying to say today is it's important to see what these council members do with this information," James said. "It brought the community together to fight for our street, but if they don't hear us, it's going to be discouraging. It's going to be a break in the system."

James' business partner, Lori Leighton, said the purpose of Wednesday's demonstration was to ask city officials to listen to the community. Leighton spent the afternoon crossing back and forth across the street, carrying a sign declaring "protect 1100 East."

"It's about the people," she said. "Guys, listen to the people. They don't want their neighborhood disrupted with an unnecessary vanity streetcar."

Many attending the protest said they wouldn't mind if the streetcar continued east along 2100 South, connecting the line to Sugarhouse Park and an area they said might benefit economically from additional development, Leighton added.

As rush-hour traffic crept past the group along the two-lane street, many drivers honked, waved or shouted their approval out open windows. Calls in favor of the streetcar extension were few and far between.

George Chapman, who lives near the gym, said a streetcar would destroy the cozy, quiet neighborhood he enjoys walking through.

"It's not just the construction. It's the congestion that will be caused by the streetcar," Chapman said.

Chapman worries traffic snarls will discourage drivers from coming to 1100 East businesses, such as the Boxing Is For Girls gym. He applauded his neighbors for mobilizing the movement against the streetcar.

"They know how to put up a good fight," he said. "All of this is because of them. I appreciate it so much. They're defending their community."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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