Tom Smart, Deseret News
Salt Lake City’s burgeoning central district has been named among the top 10 best downtowns in the country, according to an annual list compiled by Livability.com.

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s burgeoning central district has been named among the top 10 best downtowns in the country, according to an annual list compiled by Livability.com.

“Salt Lake City is home to a growing population … and offers residents and visitors alike lively entertainment options and dynamic arts and cultural attractions,” according to the website. Overall, Salt Lake was ranked fifth on the list of the best 10 small to mid-sized cities.

Rankings were largely data-driven, relying on demographic measures including projected median household income, population increase since 2010 and percentage of new homeowners.

Downtown Salt Lake City is home to about 5,000 people, with over a quarter of all residents qualifying as “new homeowners.” Another 2,000 apartments are currently under construction in and around Salt Lake City.

According to Justin Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, the neighborhood is expected to house 20,000 people by 2035.

Much of the district’s growth is driven by millennials, a generation easily drawn to Salt Lake City’s emerging markets and low unemployment rate.

As Livability noted, “young professionals between the ages of 22 and 34 are especially drawn to downtowns, where people can congregate, enjoy shopping and dining, walk, bike and most importantly live.”

With this information in mind, the list curators also considered each downtown’s “walk score,” a measure of a neighborhood’s walkability and friendliness to pedestrians. Downtown Salt Lake earned a walk score of 83, making it the second most walkable neighborhood in the country.

“It’s great to see recognition for public and private investment that’s happened downtown and for the hardworking business owners and the residents who are making downtown such a vibrant place,” Mathis said.

“We still have a lot of work to do. Downtown is very different than it was five or six years ago, and if we want to continue to be on a positive trajectory, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that downtown continues to thrive,” he said.

Mathis said his team plans to focus on further bolstering the city’s arts and entertainment scenes. The Downtown Alliance is currently helping to pave the way for a UTA streetcar and public fitness center, and hopes to open a year-round public market in the Rio Grande neighborhood soon.

“We see a huge wave of millennials that want to live and work downtown, and social opportunities post-work for them are really important,” Mathis said. “That’s an important decision for people that maybe wasn’t a decade ago.”

Already, Salt Lake City does well in terms of cultural offerings. The city’s blossoming arts district includes several high-quality galleries, museums and music venues, soon to be joined by the Eccles Theater, a 2,500-seat Broadway-style theater currently under construction on Main Street between 100 South and 200 South.

The city also boasts a growing gastronomic scene, with an eclectic collection of coffee shops, eateries and bars.

“It’s getting more metropolitan. There’s more bars and more of a nightlife now,” said Alec Arpogast, a lifelong Utah resident now living downtown. “It used to be pretty dull, but now, as somebody in my 20s, it’s really fun.”

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