An accelerated excavation schedule for City Creek Center calls for the ZCMI Center Food Court to close its doors Oct. 6 — seven to eight months before its replacement is expected to open.

The closure was announced Friday in an e-mail to employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is building an estimated $1.5 billion retail, residential and office development at the former ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza sites in downtown Salt Lake City.

Church officials earlier said they planned to keep the downtown

food court open until the new 13-kitchen, 1,000-seat dining area on the lower levels of the Key Bank tower opened for business in May or June next year.

But according to the e-mail, the food court needs to close in order for crews to speed up excavation and shoring operations on the former ZCMI Center block.

Discussions are under way for two or three of the existing ZCMI Center vendors to temporarily move into the remodeled lobby of the Eagle Gate tower at 60 E. South Temple until the new food court opens.

In addition, a new sandwich shop/bakery will open in the base of the Beneficial Tower, 15 W. South Temple, said Dale Bills, spokesman for City Creek Reserve Inc., a development arm of the LDS Church.

"As work progresses on City Creek Center, we are committed to providing food service to our office tenants and downtown visitors," Bills said.

Low cost and convenience have made the food court a lunch-hour hot spot for hundreds of downtown employees whose nearby fast-food options are limited by ongoing construction.

"There are other places to eat, but they take a lot longer and they're more expensive," said Michelle Cooper, who works at food-court neighbor Zions Bank.

Cooper and several others having lunch Friday at the food court were shocked to learn of the impending closure.

"There are going to be a lot of disappointed people," said Shauna Madsen, a downtown employee and food-court regular.

Cooper and Madsen both said they likely will bring their lunch to work more often rather than seek out other eateries.

"There just aren't a lot of options," Madsen said.

Construction in the two-block area bordered by West Temple, South Temple, State Street and 100 South already has caused problems for ZCMI Center Food Court vendors.

"We've had power outages and gas outages," said Sbarro manager Michelle Ogletree. "That's construction. That's what happens."

Ogletree said the vendors have been in limbo for several months as rumors swirled about the food court closing.

"We've been waiting to find out what's going to happen here," she said.

Ogletree said Sbarro employees likely will be transferred to another location in the franchise.

Bills declined to say which vendors may be moving to the Eagle Gate tower.


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com