City Creek Reserve Inc.
A recent rendering shows the proposed skybridge for the City Creek Center development, which is under construction in downtown Salt Lake City.

The fate of a skybridge over Main Street is no longer up in the air.

Four members of the Salt Lake City Council told the Deseret Morning News on Friday they plan to vote in favor of allowing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a skybridge as part of its $1.5 billion City Creek Center downtown development.

Council members Jill Remington Love, Carlton Christensen, Eric Jergensen and Van Turner each said they believe the LDS Church and its development partners have met the requirements set by the council a year ago and that they plan to acknowledge that with an affirmative vote.

A fifth favorable vote is likely from council newcomer JT Martin.

"It appears (the developers) have met the criteria," Martin said. "I think the evidence is stacking in favor of a positive vote from me."

In April 2007, the council approved amendments to the city's master plan to permit skybridges under certain circumstances. The criteria created by the council was designed to ensure that the development promotes a vibrant downtown with an emphasis on pedestrian traffic.

The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether those conditions have been met.

"We passed specific criteria, and I think they've met that criteria," Jergensen said. "I think this is going to be a world-class development. I'm very enthusiastic about what it will do for our downtown."

In some cases, a favorable vote will require putting personal preferences aside.

Martin, who wasn't a member of the council when the master plan was amended, said he would have voted against the skybridge then, but now faces a much different decision.

"I don't like the bridge, I don't want the bridge and I wouldn't have voted for the bridge," he said. "But that's not what I'm voting on. I'm voting on whether (the developers) have met the criteria or not."

Soren Simonsen, the lone member of the council to vote against amending the master plan, remains opposed to the skybridge from an urban design perspective but described himself as "firmly in the undecided category" on Tuesday's vote.

"I think they're pretty close (to meeting the criteria), and they may even be there," Simonsen said.

First-year Councilman Luke Garrott also has said he believes the developers have made a strong case that they've satisfied the requirements, though personally he's opposed to multi-block, mega-development projects.

Love said she would prefer a unanimous vote of the council Tuesday because it's such a significant decision for Salt Lake City.

"I hope we can find some consensus and agreement as a council," she said. "But regardless of where the other six council members fall, it's not going to change my vote."

Mayor Ralph Becker could exercise his right to veto the council's decision if it fails to receive five votes — a super-majority of the council — though it's unlikely that he would do so.

"While I'm not a fan of skybridges in downtown Salt Lake, I think we've run the course on this one," Becker said. "I'm not going to stand in the way of the council's policy-making decision on this."

In a visit with the Deseret Morning News Editorial Board on Friday, LDS Church and development officials likened the proposed 140-foot skybridge over Main Street to the famous arch in St. Louis and Space Needle in Seattle, saying it will become a city landmark.

"We've approached it as a piece of art," said architect Ron Loch of Taubman Centers Inc., the developing partner based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Artists will etch the glass walls on the skybridge with depictions of plant life that would grow along City Creek in a natural setting. Loch is still investigating methods of how to etch the glass. Some techniques include laser cutting and sand blasting.

"The closer you get, the more detail you'll see," Loch said.

From an engineering standpoint, the biggest challenge has been designing a bridge without any support columns from below. It also has to be built to withstand an earthquake.

"One end is literally on rollers, so it has the ability to move if the building starts shaking," Loch said.

The bridge's final design is the result of more than 13 public meetings in which the plans were criticized and changed, said Alan Sullivan, an attorney for LDS Church- owned City Creek Reserve Inc.

"The design we started with was different than the one we ended with," he said.

Based on public feedback, the skybridge was to be "transparent to the maximum extent possible" but also a focal point in the city, Sullivan said.

Critics fear the skybridge will block lines of sight to the mountains. The church maintains the current canopy of trees planted downtown blocks sight anyway.

The church is continuing to talk to members of the council who have questions about the skybridge.

"I'd say we're optimistic," said Taubman project manager Bruce Heckman.

The project may be as good as dead if the council doesn't pass the skybridge. The developers don't have any other ideas about how to connect retailers on both sides of Main Street.

"It would be a very unfortunate situation if they determined we didn't meet (criteria for a skybridge)," Heckman said. "But we don't have a Plan B."


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