South Salt Lake City, once a victim of urban flight, housing blight and toxic scars, has emerged as a "vibrant, progressive and growing community."

It's also the least expensive place to live in Salt Lake Valley, according to South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis, who extolled his city's accomplishments during his annual state-of-the-city address Wednesday night."Think back on 1978 in South Salt Lake. The housing stock was old and in disrepair. The homes of the 1940s did not attract young couples with school-age children so familiar neighborhood schools were being closed," he said. "South Salt Lake became a victim of urban flight. Small businesses struggled to survive with little incentive to expand."

With time, the face of the city has changed.

Residential neighborhoods have been preserved. Three federally sponsored housing projects for senior citizens and handicapped adults have been established, as have two housing programs - the Housing Rehabilitation Program and the Home Improvement Loan Program - to help residents upgrade their homes.

Plus, through partnerships with private developers, South Salt Lake will add 126 new homes - the first new homes built in the city in 35 years.

Davis said while several environmental issues were laid to rest, economic opportunities flourished. Through the Industrial Development Bond program, several local businesses relocated or expanded in South Salt Lake. Price Savers alone provides South Salt Lake with nearly $500,000 in tax revenue per year, he said.

The success story doesn't stop there.

Nine redevelopment agency projects already total $77 million, and two phases of the new FHP hospital/Metro Center RDA project on State Street will add an additional $60 million when completed.

"This means by 1993, just 10 years after starting the RDA program, South Salt Lake will have increased the value of the property in South Salt Lake by over $130 million," Davis said.

That's not all. The business development projects conceived and implemented by South Salt Lake over the past 12 years have generated nearly 2,000 new jobs.

According to Davis, increased commercial and residential development translates into a higher quality of life and lower cost of living for residents. Of 15 Salt Lake Valley communities surveyed by city officials for annual property tax, water, sewer and garbage costs, South Salt Lake ranked last in total costs.

Annual costs for residents owning a $84,000 home in South Salt Lake City are $277.49, compared to $779.59 in Salt Lake City; $648.00 in Draper; $501.61 in Sandy; $459.75 in Riverton, and $277.49 in Murray.

"Bottom line, South Salt Lake City residents are getting a great return on their investment," Davis said.