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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Salt Lake City on Friday, March 2, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — It's often the first thing people notice when flying into a big city: the skyline. Seattle, San Francisco and New York each has a different skyline and each reflects a personality of sorts.

Salt Lake City's skyline has undergone a big change in the past couple of years. Through the years, buildings have been imploded and demolished, followed by the appearance of construction cranes, which put newer and taller structures in their place. And that was certainly the case during the past six years.

In the early 1900s, Salt Lake City did have a skyline, though a modest one. In the 1970s, Salt Lake City's skyline made a major transformation. The "original" Salt Palace went up, as did the ZCMI Center and Howard Johnson's. Other hotels, banks and offices jumped out of the ground.

This year, City Creek Center has altered the downtown silhouette once more.

“A place like Salt Lake has a 'smallish' skyline, said Brenda Scheer, University of Utah dean of College of Architecture and Planning. “But it's given more importance because of its backdrop of the mountains, so it's almost amplified by that, particularly when you fly in to the airport.”

With an updated skyline with that scenic backdrop, it's not hard to impress visitors.

“When my colleagues come here from other communities, and I have colleagues in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, they are awestruck,” said Mike Stransky, president of GSBS Architects.

It's a lot of steel, concrete and glass after all, constructed in various sizes, shapes, colors and angles. Well, for one thing, an expanding skyline like Salt Lake City's is unheard of in the nation right now. "Downtown rising" is sending a strong message that the city is vibrant and developing.

“The fact that we have a skyline where there's exciting stuff sort of happening right now, tells a lot about our trajectory at this moment,” Scheer said.

This view says the city is moving forward, economically, culturally and creatively.

Scheer and Stransky like the fact that the new developments also blend in nicely with what was already here, and the fact that it's all very accessible.

"People look at this and say, 'How did you do that?'” Stransky said. “'How did you bring the perfect storm together with transportation and residential development and commercial development all coming together?'"

Major city skylines, no matter where they are, really are a work of art with many individual pieces fitting together into one, big unique puzzle. Some are more interesting than others, of course. New Yorkers certainly love the looks of their city; as do folks in Denver or San Diego. What about people in Salt Lake City?

"I think we should (feel proud of our skyline), Scheer said. “Our skyline is very attractive and has a lot of good mix of eras of buildings in it. I think we have the potential to add to it in a way that’s not scattered but consolidated, so there’s room to grow.”

"You gotta believe that the outside world and businesses who are looking at coming here are saying, ‘There's an active, vibrant city that gets things done,’” Stransky said.

The $1.5 billion City Creek project is scheduled to open March 22.

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