SALT LAKE CITY — It's been nine months since Salt Lake City leaders selected the sites for two new homeless resource centers — but the sting to some nearby business owners and residents was renewed this week when reviewing the architectural designs of the facilities.
And to at least one business owner — Michelle Goldberg of Diggity Dog day care — the news that a homeless shelter would be coming to her neighborhood was brand new.
"I'm beside myself," she said Thursday. "I feel so blindsided."
While the mixed gender shelter has been referred to as the 275 W. High Ave. shelter, architectural plans released this week show its entrance will actually be on Paramount Avenue, right across the street from Goldberg's business.
Goldberg said for nearly three years she's owned the dog day care at 245 Paramount Ave., but she only learned of the 200-bed men's and women's shelter planned for her street this week when a reporter contacted her.
That's despite city officials' efforts months ago to engage community members after the shelters were announced. Public meetings were held in all neighborhoods, though not until after the sites were selected because city leaders didn't want to pit neighborhoods against each other.
Nate Salazar, community liaison in the mayor's office, said city staffers did try to contact her by phone, email and mailer — but Goldberg called those attempts "weak," leaving her "angry and insulted."
Furious and at times tearful, Goldberg attended an open house Thursday hosted by city officials at the site to review the design plans of the shelter. But to her, the designs depicting how the new center will be different from the troubled downtown shelter gave her no comfort.
Despite investing tens of thousands of dollars in her business, Goldberg fears her business will fail.
"My back is up against the wall. I can't sell my property — it's been devalued 75 percent," she said. "I've worked my tail off to build this business."
But Art Duy, a Ballpark businessman — owner of countertop business ArtStone LLC and a landlord to Dogs All Day, another dog boarding company at 1370 S. 400 West, about four blocks away from the site — said while he still has concerns, he's "hopeful the plan will work."
"It's nice they have a good-looking structure, and I'm sure they've put a lot of research into this," he said. "But the big unanswered question is how much it's going to impact us here. But I feel better looking at it; obviously, the city is putting a lot of effort into this and trying to do the best they can."
A day earlier, city officials hosted an open house at the other site, 131 E. 700 South, for community members near what will be the Geraldine E. King Women's Resource Center. The site is shaping up to be less controversial than the High Avenue/Paramount Avenue site, but it doesn't come without concerns.
Central City resident Jamie Ross, who lives about two blocks away from the future women's shelter, said she liked the designs, but she still has worries.
"I think the building is beautiful, it's certainly nicer than what's here right now," she said of the current Deseret Industries building. "But my concern isn't necessarily with the design, but the facility itself."
She wondered if 200 beds will be enough and if it has any "overflow," where would it spill? Additionally, Ross wondered if meal service was going to be provided to people not staying at the shelter and if it will cause people congregating for meals outside.
City officials have said the centers will not allow queuing outside.
"It's like an experiment," Ross said. "I think it's a really worthwhile experiment, and I feel like the approach is coming from the right place, but I still have questions."
Hours earlier, city officials presented design plans at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall. Several homeless individuals were impressed with the designs, but — like Ross — still had many questions, mostly about how the shelters were going to operate.
"I'm happy about all this, but we need to make sure you hire real good people — people that care about us," said Antoinette Lopez, who said she's been living at the Road Home for four years. "We want people to treat us like real people, not like crap."
Skylar Wing, who said he's been homeless for three years, asked whether service animals will be allowed to sleep inside the resource centers with their owners and whether clients would be able to receive on-site medical help.
The answers to both of Wing's questions were "yes," according to principal architect Jill Jones, of AJC Architects. Both shelters include not only beds, but also medical units, kitchens, kennels and outdoor courtyards so clients don't have to leave while their spaces are being cleaned.
City officials said the aim of the open houses was to gather input, questions and concerns as they continue working on the design and operation of the future facilities.