As expected, Salt Lake City Council approved a 140-foot skybridge over Main Street on Tuesday.
The skybridge which will feature etched glass and a retractable roof will connect east and west sides of the $1.5 billion City Creek Center, an LDS Church development of office, residential and retail space.
"We are one of the few cities in America that actually has construction happening now during a recession," Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said.
Six of seven members of the City Council voted in favor of the motion. Councilman Luke Garrott voted against it. "I'll be voting against this proposal because I'm against this type of development in general," Garrott said. "... I don't think you develop downtown through mega-projects."
After years of economic downturn, the LDS Church demolished the former ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza last year to build City Creek Center. The church estimates City Creek Center could draw 10 million people downtown a year. But Garrott doesn't believe City Creek Center will solely revitalize downtown.
"Revitalizing Main Street is still a public responsibility, and complacency that this project will take care of Main Street may be the death of Main Street," he said.
"I don't subscribe to the point of view that this will not harm Gateway or that in fact it may be positive," said Councilman J.T. Martin, who voted in favor of the skybridge. "I think it's going to affect it quite a bit. It will be interesting to see what Gateway becomes. We know there's only so many national tenants."
The skybridge became controversial shortly after the LDS Church announced it in 2006 while unveiling City Creek Center plans with development partner Taubman Centers Inc., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Skybridges in recent years have been shunned in Salt Lake City, after a 1990 downtown master plan and 1995 urban design document warned against them. Both documents state that skybridges would keep pedestrians off city streets and block views. Documents specifically cite Main Street's sight view toward Ensign Peak.
However, the LDS Church has maintained the skybridge is necessary to the flow of pedestrian traffic at City Creek Center. In April 2007, the City Council announced a compromise on the matter: The skybridge would be allowed if it had a minimal impact on views, yet also used urban design elements and did not adversely affect street-level businesses.
The LDS Church and Taubman made changes based on the City Council's feedback, said Councilman Soren Simonsen, who opposed the compromise last year but voted in favor of the skybridge Tuesday night.
"The decision we're making tonight is not really about the bridge," Simonsen said. "It's about whether or not they responded to all the criteria."
While the City Council approved Tuesday night construction of the skybridge, it added a pagelong list of new criteria that the LDS Church must meet for the rest of the project, which will be finished in phases and culminated in 2012.
The City Council wants the LDS Church to use similar urban design and architectural elements on Block 74 where a Harmon's grocery store is being built that it
has planned for the other blocks of the development. Alan Sullivan, an attorney for LDS Church-owned City Creek Reserve Inc., said that Block 74 was always part of the development and will look like the rest of it.
But the church doesn't own all the buildings on the block.
"There are limits as far as what CCRI can do," Sullivan said. The City Council expects city employees, the church and the Utah Department of Transportation to build a midblock crosswalk on State Street connecting City Creek Center to Social Hall Avenue. The church and Salt Lake County must work to create pedestrian vitality on West Temple between South Temple and 100 South to draw visitors at the Salt Palace Convention Center to downtown.
The church must work with the Salt Lake City Historic Landmarks Commission on the cast-iron facade that fronted the former ZCMI store. That facade may become the next skybridge-like fight, as members of the City Council have questions about how the facade will front a Macy's store on Main Street, 25 feet north of where the ZCMI's front doors were located. The current plan requires pedestrians to walk down five or six steps to enter the store."I struggle with that," Simonsen said.
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