"The Salt Lake City downtown is stagnant. It is mired in deep and bitter controversy over block 57. Meanwhile, investment and vitality that should be going into downtown is leaking out of the downtown to the south and into the unincorporated county and up the streets to the east toward the university. This erosion in all directions has drained the downtown of tenants, shoppers and life.
"The church on the north of downtown has invested heavily in that end of town with quality buildings for both its functions and commercial space which surround the church. But to the south, the downtown is in trouble, with various merchants and owners struggling to hang on and forge a comeback."
This opening statement in the Salt Lake R/UDAT "Our Downtown Future" report is a sobering reminder that our cities can easily get into major trouble through poor planning.
"While many plans and strategies have been developed, there is still no overall direction for redevelopment efforts. The recommendations of previous plans were left, for the most part, unimplemented. As a result, the issues they intended to address remain unresolved."
What is R/UDAT?
"Since 1962, the Urban Design & Planning Committee of the American Institute of Architects has sent interdisciplinary Regional/Urban Design Assistance Teams (R/UDAT) to more than 98 cities that have requested help. The purpose of the ... program is to assist cities in dealing with specitfic local problems and issues through the participation of cities, agencies and local interest groups."
Yes, Salt Lake has suffered from past mistakes. What do we do now? R/UDAT suggests the following:
A. Block 57 is important, but there are larger issues that must be addressed.
B. We must support a single vision and pursue it consistently over a period of time.
C. The Predominant north/south axis along Main and State streets must be re-established.
D. A judicial and government center and large public plaza must be developed to serve as the southern anchor of the central business district.
E. A new 25,000-seat arena must be built as the Salt Palace complex.
F. Stronger historic preservation controls are needed.
G. Firm boundaries should be established on the south and east sides of the central business district.
H. The downtown area needs a comprehensive parking management solution.
I. Look at short-term ways to upgrade existing transit service.
J. Citizen participation in planning and decision-making must be encouraged.
K. Additional automobile access to the downtown and university cannot be provided at the expense of strong residential neighborhoods.
L. Attention to a variety of design parameters can humanize the scale of downtown development.
What of the design parameters? The R/UDAT proposal for action in urban design recommentds the foolowing: Promote Trolley Square. Open up blocks to pedestrian traffic. Bring City Creek above ground. Require ground-floor retail in new buildings in the shopping district. Prohibit blank walls. Adopt a view and vista ordinance. Restrict second level walkways. Design and build gateway entrances to the downtown area. Adopt a coordinated signage program to locate parking and major tourist attractions. Establish a farmer's market. Create an arts district. Place public art in pedestrian oriented areas.
Create a boulevard on Main and State streets. Examine the use of special ornamental street lighting. Adopt urban design guidelines for each district. Build a new state office building and state judicial building in the government center district. Construct a landscape buffer along Fifth and Sixth South to identify the southern edge of downtown. Construct a new art museum. Construct a new 25,000-seat sports facility.
Ambitious? Yes! Comprehensive? Yes! Important? Absolutely!
Salt Lake is a beautiful city, and like any living organism, it needs continued nourishment through proper planning to maintain its vitality and beauty. The R/UDAT study was put together by some of the best minds available in architecture, planning, economics, engineering, administration and development.
This review is but a brief overview of the document that is now available to the people of Salt Lake. Our involvement, both professional and private, in the process of urban development is significant. Let's get involved!