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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
The Nordstrom store at Crossroads Plaza downtown will remain open \\\\— with a new store tentatively set to open in 2007.

Nordstrom has decided to stay downtown at the Crossroads Plaza mall.

Now what?

Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Inc., announced Friday morning that the upscale retailer had been so wowed by recent proposals from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' project developer, Taubman Centers, that it decided to remain at Crossroads.

"We love what we see," Nordstrom said of Taubman's plan. "It's innovative. It's fresh. It's a Salt Lake project. It's an urban project. It's not a suburban mall.

"It takes a lot of elements and brings them together in a way that this community can support and be proud of. It's not a New York or Chicago or Seattle thing. It's Salt Lake."

Nordstrom's current Main Street store will remain open throughout the redevelopment process, Blake Nordstrom said. The new store is expected to be about 124,000 square feet on two levels, with tentative plans to open in the spring or fall of 2007. The new store will be located "somewhere on the Crossroads Plaza block," Nordstrom said, but did not specify where.

Blake Nordstrom declined to discuss what, if any, incentives were offered by the LDS Church. Nor did he discuss what many are anxiously awaiting — actual project specs, which have yet to be released by Taubman or the church. Nordstrom did say that he "loves" what he's seen so far and that Taubman's proposals have improved dramatically "in the last few months."

"Taubman has been the key. The church deserves tremendous credit for their support, their resources, their commitment to seeing this downtown and this area be the best it can be," Nordstrom said. "They partnered with Taubman and literally gave them the green light to do what was necessary to build a first-class project and address the many concerns and opportunities that we and many other businesses had — the mix of tenants, the parking issues, a number of elements that were making it difficult to do business here. This plan they put together far exceeds any expectations that we had."

Friday's announcement was a sea change for the retailer, which had consistently argued that Crossroads was no longer a good fit. The facility had become "tired," Nordstrom had said. Parking was insufficient. The tenant mix was unacceptable.

As the store's lease agreement neared its August 2005 end date, Nordstrom lobbied hard to be allowed to relocate to The Gateway. After weeks and months of debate, the move was nixed by the City Council, and the store prepared to pull out of downtown Salt Lake City.

Even after the church made its announcement last October, pledging upward of $500 million toward renovating the two blocks now home to ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza, Nordstrom maintained anything the church did would be "too little, too late."

Then, sometime within the last few months, Taubman approached Nordstrom again, Blake Nordstrom said — this time with a proposal that "fully resolved" any concerns the store previously had about parking, tenants and everything else.

Karen MacDonald, spokeswoman for Taubman, had little to add Friday. "We continue to work with (LDS Church real estate arm) Property Reserve Inc., Nordstrom and the other major stakeholders to plan the best possible mixed-use development for this vibrant downtown. We are still not able to release any details on the plans as this is a complex undertaking with much left to do. Today's announcement is an encouraging step forward."

LDS Church officials were likewise mum. Spokesman Michael Purdy declined to comment beyond the information in Nordstrom's press release and said Presiding Bishop H. David Burton would not take questions Friday.

Still, city, community and business leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the news. The dearth of information about the project after the church's initial announcement last October left empty space eventually filled by rumors and questions — about its ramped up property-buying in the downtown area, its relationship with Taubman, and the health of the project in general. By late summer, the persistent hum of speculation had begun to sound more like a hive.

"Because there wasn't this information coming out, people were getting nervous, but this changes all of that," Mayor Rocky Anderson's spokeswoman, Deeda Seed, said. "The LDS Church and Taubman have done this. They have gone where others were not able to. It's a great thing. It's a happy day."

The City Council and mayor's office (Anderson is out on vacation) were first alerted that there would be an announcement Thursday evening but were not told what that announcement would be. Friday morning City Council members, the mayor's office and others were informed of the news.

Deseret Morning News graphicDNews graphicNordstrom/Gateway timelineRequires Adobe Acrobat.

Many were surprised that the church and Nordstrom were able to keep it such a secret. Even Nordstrom employees didn't know until Friday morning when they were called into a special meeting.

At first there was sort of a gasp when the meeting was called, and then when the announcement came "there was a big cheer," Nordstrom employee Dani Tarverna said. "Nobody had any idea. They kept it a secret."

Maureen Andrews, a manager of two women's apparel departments at the downtown store, said she never gave up hope that the store would stay.

"I'm an eternal optimist," Andrews said. "I had faith. I knew the Nordstroms were working very hard on this, and I knew that the church was also. It was hard not to get down sometimes, but deep down I felt like somehow things were going to come together."

Though most details about the church's project remain unknown, the Nordstrom announcement is a critical corner piece of the puzzle.

"This move will prove to be a provident one for Nordstrom. It establishes a firm standard of quality for the development," Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber, said in a statement. "It is also just a hint of what I trust will be many more exciting announcements to come."

Competitors and former suitors also seemed relieved to know that Nordstrom will continue to have a presence downtown. Even if it is with the other guy.

"I think it's good that they're staying downtown," said Jake Boyer, managing partner of The Gateway. "It's a little surprising, since they had taken the stance that they were going to leave the city. That being said, I think it's a win for downtown.

"We've always said that the worst of all worlds would be for them to leave downtown Salt Lake City completely, because that would not be beneficial for a synergistic downtown. Our feeling is that it's a net benefit if we're successful and their project is successful. It's a win for all of us."

Contributing: Brady Snyder; E-mail: jnii@desnews.com