City Creek Center marks 1-year anniversary

Posted at 8:59 PM, Mar 22, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY - The City Creek Center has marked its one year in business with ambitious downtown project "exceeding expectations," mall managers said Friday.

The mix of upscale retail and residential property, estimated to have cost as much as $2 billion to build, has transformed the face of downtown Salt Lake City. It was the only major retail center to open in 2012, built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the midst of a recession.

"I think the thing that has surprised me the most about opening City Creek Center is the way that the community has so warmly embraced us," City Creek Center manager Linda Wardell said Friday.

It is unknown exactly how much City Creek Center has brought into the downtown area and Utah's economy in general. Sales tax figures are a few weeks away, the Utah State Tax Commission said Friday.

The impact of City Creek Center on downtown Salt Lake City is certainly noticeable. The city said Friday that it has seen nearly 600 business licenses in the downtown area since 2010, when construction began.

"It's not always shoppers from City Creek that are going to come down and then go there," said Jason Mathis, the director of the Downtown Alliance. "But they might come down because they're attracted to City Creek and say there's a lot of other things downtown."

Some neighboring businesses complain they have not seen the spillover foot traffic from the mall.

"Last year has been slightly decreased with City Creek opening," said Francis Leo, the owner of Lamb's Grill. "City Creek is built for one-stop shopping. When people go there, they park there, they shop there, they eat there."

Richard Robins, a retail specialist with Coldwell Banker Commercial, called the City Creek Center "probably the best thing Salt Lake City has seen in 10 to 20 years."

Robins said he believes City Creek Center has helped the rest of downtown.

"I think they'll help drive rents up for those landlords because City Creek is almost full and if you want to be downtown, you want to be by them," he said.

Another area impacted by City Creek Center is the Gateway. When it was built, tenants fled the then-ZCMI Center and Crossroads malls to be there. When City Creek Center was built, some tenants bolted.

But operators of the Gateway downplayed the impact.

"We are still a vibrant, entertaining shopping district in downtown Salt Lake City," Gateway manager Scott Bennett told FOX 13.

The Gateway is preparing a $2 million renovation, due to be finished in time for the holiday shopping season. It appears to be reinventing itself as more of an entertainment district with more restaurants than City Creek Center. It also hosts museums and movie theatres.

"One of the things that does set us apart is our focus on the entertainment and the restaurants, but I think that leads naturally to the retail being successful as well," Bennett said.