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Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
An artist's rendering shows plans for the Cottonwood Mall renovation. Ground was officially broken on Thursday to begin construction.

HOLLADAY — Amid multi-colored confetti, a light rain — mixed with mud and gravel — and a celebratory symphonic soundtrack, ground was officially broken Thursday for the Cottonwood Mall redevelopment project.

Business leaders and government representatives celebrated the project with speeches, cheers and talk of the necessary cooperation between the private and public sectors.

But no gold-plated shovels were in sight. Rather, four massive construction tractors displaced the first mounds of black mud. "This project is too big for mere shovels," project spokesman Kris Longson told the crowd.

Crews have been demolishing the 46-year-old mall since government entities gave General Growth Properties the go-ahead — and $96 million in tax increment funding — in February. The only building that won't be demolished is the Macy's store, on the northeast corner of the 57-acre lot near 4800 S. Highland Drive.

The developer has pledged $550 million for the project and plans to complete it by late 2010.

General Growth became owner of the mall when the company acquired the mall's previous owner, JP Realty, said John Bucksbaum, General Growth's chief executive officer and chairman. General Growth, the second-largest mall owner in the United States, acquired the Fashion Place mall property in Murray through another acquisition, and that mall also is undergoing redevelopment.

"This is going to be so totally different from Fashion Place," Bucksbaum said. " To me, that's what's best about the fact that we own multiple properties. We try to stay as far away from homogeneous as possible."

The new "European village" being built at Cottonwood Mall will feature 575,000 square feet of office space, 500 residences, a movie theater, 11 acres of open space and tree-lined streets, according to General Growth Properties.

The project will relocate Big Cottonwood Creek and lift the property out of a flood plain. Holladay plans to spend about $12 million in money from tax-increment funding on infrastructure for the project this year.

The redevelopment is being held up as a masterpiece of "new urbanism," an architectural movement that aims to counteract urban sprawl. It will be seen as an example for communities across America, said Holladay Mayor Dennis Webb.

"The spirit of enterprise continues," the mayor said. "See what we can do when we work together?"


E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com