While new buildings will spring up and more sunshine will pour through skylights, visitors to Trolley Square need only look down to see a symbol of the changes taking place there.
Gone are layers of wax that darkened the distinctive brick floor. The floor now has a warm, golden tone.
That is just one part of a makeover that the old trolley barns a century old next year are getting to make the place "lighter and brighter" and more inviting by adding new elements but retaining the shopping center's character.
"It's an incredibly unique project, and it's iconic, really, and we've been really overwhelmed by the community's affection for Trolley Square," said Jerry Hunt, co-founder and president of Blake Hunt Ventures, the development partner for Trolley Square Associates LLC.
"There's a lot of emotional attachment to Trolley. What we wanted to do from the very beginning ... is not take away from Trolley but really add some other components and dimensions to it. We think it's a wonderful project and had great 'bones.' We just wanted to enhance it and add to it."
The first of the $60 million in changes were started in April, and the completion is still two years away. Among the highlights are new retail buildings along the western edge that will be atop a new parking area, as well as a new building for Whole Foods in the northeast quadrant, improved pedestrian corridors, gathering areas for families and elements to make the interior more "open."
During a media tour Wednesday, Hunt explained how the two-level, 160,000-square-foot center will eventually have 345,000 square feet of space and improvements.
At the east entrance, a "see-through" staircase has replaced escalators in a formerly dark, confined area. That's one example of how the shopping center can energize and attract visitors, Hunt said.
The south end, with the enclosed skybridge connecting to a parking lot across 600 South, will have more retail space and perhaps another restaurant. The mall is experimenting with free valet parking at that site. The lower level is likely to have a "tremendous gathering place" in the existing amphitheater, Hunt said.
The west side will have perhaps the most noticeable changes. Starting early next year, the existing two-level parking garage along the street will be demolished. In its place by next fall will be 40,000 square feet in the form of three new buildings atop a 300-space below-ground parking area.
The current parking structure, Hunt said "is really a gray concrete structure that doesn't feel 'retail,' doesn't feel exciting or inviting." The new buildings that will take its place "will now be light and bright and have glass and retail."
A plaza area between the new buildings and the main structure will feature seating, fountains and fireplaces another gathering place.
The northeast area will feature the 53,000-square-foot Whole Foods building, which will be constructed next summer and completed by the end of 2009. It will have 250 parking spaces on top, with half of those covered.
Whole Foods will have an outdoor food court at one corner, and more smaller retailers are expected to be added to the pedestrian corridor heading west.
Wells Fargo will relocated at Trolley, and its building will be reconstructed on the west side for another retailer.
Throughout the existing Trolley building will be improved hallways, part of a pedestrian network inside. Hallways in the old mall "wrapped around" and led to shoppers getting lost or feeling confined, he said. "There will be less of those diversion opportunities than there were before."
Several skylights will be exposed once heating and ventilation equipment is removed, allowing in natural light. A glass elevator will "open up the central core." And shoppers will be able to better see stores on both levels, Hunt said.
Trolley also will add some type of memorial perhaps a "peace garden," he said to honor the victims of the shootings that occurred earlier this year.
Trolley Square is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Utah Historic Site. Salt Lake's Historic Landmark Commission in September approved the changes at the mall, which is a Historic Landmark Site on the Salt Lake City Register of Cultural Resources.
Trolley has about 45 retailers but could increase to 65 when the renovations and additions are completed.
The mall on Wednesday announced multiyear lease commitments from Casa Bella, Brass Key Antiques, Trolley Taffy Station, European Linens & Design, Palmers Gallery and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Rodizio Grill said in October it would renew a 10-year lease."We are striving for something that is distinctly Trolley and something that is unique only to Trolley," Hunt said. "We're not trying to necessarily compete with any project. We're really just trying to create an extraordinary experience for any of the customers and people who want to come to enjoy the place."
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