Some curves would create a new atmosphere of vitality in over-organized Salt Lake City, one resident says.
"I'd like to see some curves. I'm so tired of this grid," complained resident Elise Lazar, a Baltimore transplant. "Everything is so organized. When I have curve hunger, I have to go up into the canyons.Traffic congestion, parking problems, commercial businesses swallowing up housing near downtown, historic preservation and the need for public comment were themes woven throughout a lively 4 1/2-hour public meeting Saturday morning, attended by some 100 people. A panel of architects, traffic experts and urban planners listened to Salt Lake residents as part of a whirlwind tour- and meeting-packed, four-day examination of the city.
The team of experts, all volunteers, is part of the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team, a tool of the American Institute of Architects. The study is planned as a way to bring consensus among downtown interests in creating a vision for the city's future.
The team is specifically looking at Salt Lake's Central Business District and Block 57, a decaying block of mostly vacant buildings bordered by State and Main streets and Second and Third South.
Team members will present a plan for public comment Monday. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the West High School Auditorium. All Salt Lake Valley residents are invited.
Chuck Davis, an award winning San Francisco architect chosen to lead the team, offered some previews of his conclusions about the city. He said the city needs to forge a stronger commitment to its history.
He also agreed with residents, who complained the city is now kind of boring.
The city needs to be less organized, and allow vendors, outdoor concerts and other spontaneous types of activities to create a magnetic vitality, similar to the unity experienced during the floods of 1983. "If you want to have it happen, then you've got to relax a little."
The curve-loving Lazar said the city needs drama. He suggested seeding the mountains with daffodils as a tourist draw, like Washington D.C.'s cherry blossoms, or erecting a massive Mountain Fountain.
Some residents suggested the city needs better pedestrian or bicycle trails. Others had ideas for Block 57: a public park, traffic circle or transportation terminal.
"There's been a lot of talk about Block 57," said retail merchant Bill King. "Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it. I think Block 57 is Salt Lake's Vietnam. We're pouring money into it, and we're not getting anything out of it."
Dave Jones said the city needs a central gathering place, with a skating rink and other drawing-card facilities. "We had the right idea with Triad. We just put it in the wrong place."
Chuck White, of the Salt Lake Citizen's Congress, said adequate code enforcement and ending red-lining of neighborhoods by banks will force absentee landlords and slumlords to maintain properties. Red-lining is the practice of refusing mortgage loans in certain areas.
Hermoine Jex, a longtime member of the Salt Lake Association of Community Councils, cited a dozen examples over the last 20 years, where activists received a token pat on the head by city officials, but their opinions were ignored. She charged that greed weighed more than heritage, and said the city's boards are stacked in favor of developers.
Nancy Pace, who chairs the city's Board of Adjustment, said the city has no real masterplan or overall zoning goals. "Because of the economic situation, there is a great deal of pressure to go with the developers' dollars."
She also said better communication is needed with downtown's major property holder, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.