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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jenny Cushing, Vestar vice president of leasing, talks about Kiln at Kiln's space in The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Downtown Salt Lake City has been undergoing a renaissance over the past few years, with the development of City Creek Center, the Eccles Theater, two new commercial office towers on Main Street and the renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The latest addition to the downtown revival effort is a one-time retail and entertainment hub situated in one of the fastest grown areas of the central business district.

"We've been working to revitalize the area ... hosted community events, brought in new tenants (and are) continuing the process with some really great things happening," said Jacklyn Briggs, marketing director for The Gateway. "We're excited to see all of the changes really actualizing."

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jenny Cushing, Vestar vice president of leasing, and Jacklyn Briggs, Vestar marketing director, ride an escalator at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.

Arizona-based Vestar, which owns The Gateway, is in the midst of a $100 million plan to upgrade and renovate the 1.4 million square foot property, she explained.

"When we first took on the project, we really wanted to rethink the space, reimagine it and create a true mixed-use facility," she said. "We're seeing that happen now."

After enduring the impact of the economic downturn a decade ago, the once bustling shopping and entertainment center saw many of its retail tenants struggle and some close their doors. Since Vestar acquired the center two years ago, the company embarked on a long-term plan to change the profile of the property from primarily retail and entertainment with a residential component to include a significant business and commercial element, according to Jenny Cushing, vice president of leasing.

Cushing said the planned overhaul was originally scheduled to take place over five years, but the timeline is likely to be less.

Headquartered in Phoenix, Vestar owns and manages more than 50 retail shopping centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington. The company took over The Gateway in February 2016 and spent the ensuing months analyzing the market as it developed a suitable long-term growth strategy, she said.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jacklyn Briggs, Vestar marketing director, poses for a portrait in The Gateway leasing suite in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.

At the center of establishing Salt Lake City’s emerging downtown startup and technology scene, new tenants Recursion Pharmaceuticals and Kiln co‐working space will have their official grand openings at the new tech and cultural hub this month.

Gateway has positioned itself as the urban extension of “Silicon Slopes,” bringing to market very unique tech spaces, Cushing said.

"We realize we have a very unique opportunity here because of the growing demand in the tech sector," she said. "We can repurpose some of the large blocks of space we have that have unique architectural features that can be (adapted) for tech companies or large office users."

She said the large, open former retail spaces offer one-of-a-kind opportunities for firms in search of modern workspaces unlike any found in traditional office buildings. That advantage is something Vestar has used to attract anchor tenants like Recursion and Kiln, along with Cicero Group and Fidelity Investments, who occupy space on the north end of the property.

"The opportunity that we have and what makes this so unique is that we have all of these amenities that will cater to (and) make it very desirable to attract specifically the millennial workforce," Cushing noted. "We're bringing in the state's first food hall and have some entertainment concepts that have already opened."

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jenny Cushing, Vestar vice president of leasing, talks about The Gateway in The Gateway leasing suite in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.

Unlike traditional food courts often made up of fast-food chains, food halls usually mix local artisan restaurants, butcher shops and other boutique providers under one roof.

Among the entertainment currently on the property are Dave & Busters sports and arcade bar, Wiseguy's Comedy Club, Mystery Escape Room and Wasatch Theatre. She said new tenants will be announced in the coming weeks.

Vestar's preliminary plan is to have approximately two-thirds of the property dedicated to arts, entertainment and retail, with the remaining portion devoted to business and creative office tenants, she said.

"Technology is what is burgeoning right now and where the demand is, but any office use would be a candidate as a tenant here," she said.

One of the other amenities on the horizon for the reimagined Gateway is a four‐star lifestyle boutique hotel — an eight‐story tower with 225 guest rooms and 25 luxury suites that is expected to begin construction next year with scheduled completion in 2021. The developer is the Athens Group, whose properties include the Montage Deer Valley, Montage Beverly Hills, Four Seasons on Kona, Hawaii, and the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay in Northern California.

Briggs noted The Gateway houses 12 art and entertainment tenants, along with 31 art installations featuring murals, digital, interactive and pop‐up experiences created by local and international street artists.

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She added that The Gateway also hosts more than 160 events a year through several free community programs, including the Rio Grande concert series, movies on the plaza, outdoor yoga, Monday Fundays at The Gateway and The Gateway Art Stroll. Events from this year included Urban Flea Market, Pasifika Pride Prom, Festa Italiana and the Chalk Art Festival.

"Given that retail is struggling across the country, the goal for us is to decommission those spaces and repurpose them for higher and better use," she said. "Having the amenities that we have will attract people from all over the valley because we have unique accessibility to utilize mass transit to be able to attract valleywide."