If projections hold true, sometime this evening a majority of Salt Lake City Council members will vote in favor of allowing a skybridge across Main Street as part of the massive City Creek Center development.
That would be a break with recommendations made by urban planners as far back as 1988, but it would be absolutely the right decision.
The architects in charge of designing the bridge have met every requirement imposed on them by the city and concerned members of the public, including a contradictory one of essentially making it both invisible and a focal point. In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which owns this newspaper) and its development team have made compelling arguments about the need to seamlessly connect new retail construction on both the east and west sides of Main Street. Without the skybridge, the second stories of those retail centers would dead-end at the street, limiting foot traffic to those stores.
The most compelling argument, however, is the one the church is making with its own money. The project, which will include several high-rise condominium towers, is now described as costing $1.5 billion. Absolutely no tax dollars will be involved.
When people are given free rein with taxpayer funds, they tend to elevate things such as design and innovation over profitability. But when they use their own money, profitability and reputation are paramount.
True, some cities have had bad experiences with downtown skybridges. Back in 1988, a member of the city's Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team strongly cautioned against what he termed a "skybridge system," which would take shoppers away from street-level stores.
But the issue before the council tonight is not a skybridge system. It is one bridge that would span Main Street and connect two open air retail centers. On either end it would have parallel escalators that are easily accessible from the street and that offer open views of area shopping. And the bridge itself will feature artistic etchings in the glass, except at the bridge's centerpoint, where the glass would be completely transparent.
Rather than just something of practical value, the bridge would be an asset and a drawing card for downtown. Many Utahns probably have not yet grasped the scope of City Creek Center, with its waterfalls, restaurants, shopping and residences. When the vision finally takes shape, they will be glad the City Council had the wisdom to approve the skybridge.