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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
South Salt Lake City officials hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s new downtown, which will feature a WinCo Foods and two residential projects, in South Salt Lake on Monday, March 27, 2017.

SOUTH SALT LAKE — As a city that has struggled to forge an identity among the many small burghs surrounding the state's capital, South Salt Lake is taking a decidedly aggressive approach to creating what civic leaders hope will be a bright future for their namesake hometown.

Representatives from South Salt Lake broke ground Monday on what will be the city’s new downtown near 2200 S. Main.

The first phase of the planned $45 million, mixed-use development will include retail and residential components as part of the initial implementation of the South Salt Lake Downtown Master Plan to develop a 235-acre area in the heart of the city, explained Mayor Cherie Wood.

"It's taken us seven years to get to this day, and we're super excited about it," she said. "This is a great location, good visibility; just under a half-million cars pass through this quadrant a day on State Street, I-15, I-80 and 21st South."

With the development located adjacent to the Sugar House streetcar S-Line, the project is the city's first effort to develop a neighborhood built around transit, complete with the amenities necessary to provide a carless community for local residents and visitors, she said.

"We really wanted to (direct) everything (toward) the streetcar as it came through downtown," she said. "We wanted the streets to be walkable and the downtown to be walkable, so that's where you can walk with your kids, go get groceries, get dinner or go hang out in the park."

The first tenant to go into the development will be a WinCo Foods grocery store, which is scheduled to open for business around Thanksgiving, said Wade Williams, partner with The Boyer Co.. the project's developer.

"Our goal is to start small and let it grow," he said. "The city has a large vision and a master plan for the whole area."

Plans for the new downtown are expected to include 2,500 multifamily housing units, 1.5 million square feet of retail space, 3 million square feet of office and commercial space, along with parks, a greenway, a connection to Parleys Trail and other cultural and social attractions, said Michael Florence, community development director for South Salt Lake.

"We're creating a place to work, live and play," he said. Recently, the City Council has worked to adjust the zoning ordinances to aid in the development of the long-range master plan for the area, he noted, and the planned growth that is anticipated when the first phase is completed.

"There will be new people living here, 5,000 new jobs and a vibrant new area built around mass transit," Florence said. He said the growth is expected to take place over the next 20 years, with phase two of the downtown development project slated to begin in approximately 18 months.

"After these two phases, then (development) will start moving west," he said. "This is our first catalytic project. The city has invested (greatly) to get the whole downtown project moving forward."

Initial funding of $15 million for the project was raised through a sales tax bond for economic development, he said. That money was used to purchase the land that is being developed for the first two phases.

The groundbreaking comes at a time when South Salt Lake is in the midst of dealing with the process of where proposed new Salt Lake County homeless resource centers will be located. South Salt Lake is being considered for several shelter sites, including one at 3091 S. Main, which worries Mayor Wood.

"I'm absolutely concerned about it, concerned about the process, the fact that the sites don't meet the criteria for proposed sites," she said. "I would hope that (our residents) would feel stronger than they ever have as a community. That's been our goal — to build a sense of community."

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She said the new project is aimed at creating a more positive attitude about South Salt Lake throughout the metro area and creating more civic pride among residents.

"We've been trying for the past seven or eight years to really make this place a community, (to give) people reasons to want really want to come here, stay here and raise their families here," Wood said. "We want their kids to come back. I'm a third generation, my sons are fourth generation. I want them to get their schooling and come back and invest in this community and be a proud South Salt Laker."