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Despite City Creek's new look and use, memories of the old downtown Salt Lake City area linger

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 2:43 a.m. MDT

When City Creek Center opens it is estimated to generate $1 million in new sales tax revenue. But that direct financial impact is only part of the story of this years-in-the-making project to revitalize the downtown district. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) When City Creek Center opens it is estimated to generate $1 million in new sales tax revenue. But that direct financial impact is only part of the story of this years-in-the-making project to revitalize the downtown district. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

As impressed as I am by the beautiful style and innovative use of space in the new City Creek development in downtown Salt Lake City, I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness for what used to exist in those blocks.

I served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Temple Square in 1991 and 1992.

Those of us who had been called to initially serve as part of the Salt Lake City Mission were taken out of that mission and assigned exclusively to the square. During that time, many changes were taking place — but little did I know, in 20 years, even bigger transformation would take place.

Then, there were many hours I was assigned to just stand at an entrance to Temple Square to welcome visitors and direct them to tours or other offerings they might find useful. I stood at the south entrance many times — in sunny, hot conditions or cold, laced with rain or snow — waiting for someone to welcome and gazing across South Temple at Crossroads Plaza.

Facade of the ZCMI building Tuesday, October 3, 2006. (Jason Olson, All) Facade of the ZCMI building Tuesday, October 3, 2006. (Jason Olson, All)

I spent one preparation day shopping for hours at the mall with my petite companion from California, trying in vain to find a pair of winter boots that would fit her size-5 feet.

I shopped sometimes for new dresses that would be appropriate for my service.

I'd watch fellow missionaries who were on a lunch break or on their preparation day, going into the entrance of the mall to the yogurt shop right inside to get their frozen-treat fix.

I'd observe hundreds of "regular" people who weren't devoting 18 months to serving the Lord wear their blue jeans and T-shirts and hang out with friends to shop or catch a new movie.

South entrance to the ZCMI Mall Tuesday, October 3, 2006. (Jason Olson, All) South entrance to the ZCMI Mall Tuesday, October 3, 2006. (Jason Olson, All)

Once, a visitor who clearly was not from Salt Lake City came by and asked me if I knew anything about a particular movie that was out that summer.

"Is it any good?" he asked. He had no idea how little I knew to tell him.

The whole time I served my mission, I saw scaffolding gradually make its way around the temple as it was cleaned for its 100th anniversary. A walk east of the square invariably took me through construction and temporary sidewalk areas, since the Hotel Utah was in the middle of being transformed into the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. (I remember a few visitors asking me if the temple was still under construction; no, 40 years was enough, I thought.)

Now 20 years later, when I visit the same area, my eyes see a new development with multiple uses fit for a thriving downtown community — but my heart and mind still see memories of a sacred time in my life that will never be erased, never torn down and repurposed.

Construction workers watch as a skybridge is hoisted above Main Street and lowered in to place connecting the City Creek Center development in downtown Salt Lake City Sunday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Construction workers watch as a skybridge is hoisted above Main Street and lowered in to place connecting the City Creek Center development in downtown Salt Lake City Sunday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

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