New development aims to create a more walkable downtown

Posted at 9:39 PM, Feb 27, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the early 20th century, the first Ford Motor dealership opened west of the Mississippi in downtown Salt Lake City. Fast forward to 2015, that same building is reopening, making room for an entirely new wave of businesses.

“I don’t think we have anything like any of this in downtown Salt Lake,” said Joel LaSalle, a local restaurateur and head of the LaSalle Restaurant Group.

Friday, LaSalle and his partner, Mikel Trapp, closed on their purchase of the property at 300 East 300 South. Immediately, they began preparing for what comes next. Their new restaurant venture, Current Fish and Oyster, is scheduled to open next week. Two months after that, they’re expecting the Odd Fellows marketplace, complete with vendors, a bar and café, to also open.

“People can come in and there will be a butcher and somebody doing fish, a produce, maybe a flower shop,” said LaSalle. “We really envision it being a bustling place that is a destination.”

However, a few years ago, few people seemed to envision that. While 300 South and 300 East has grown with stores and coffee shops, it seemed quiet in comparison to the downtown development a few blocks west.

“There were so many people that would come up to me and say, ‘What are you doing with that building?’” said developer, David Harries.

Harries purchased the property nearly four years ago. Rather than sell it off, he wanted to find a buyer interested in preserving the history and structure of the property.

“A lot of the buildings that had these qualities and these characteristics already are gone,” Harries said. “One of our whole elements and hopes with this building is that it would become an anchor for this quadroon of the city.”

Modeled after businesses in San Francisco and Seattle, Harries made sure to maintain the original architecture where it was possible inside.

While only the restaurant is currently complete, the property will have outdoor dining around it in the near future.

“It’s really part of a reenergizing, reinvigorated downtown area. And that’s really important to us,” said Jesse Dean of the organization, Downtown Alliance.

Current opens March 5th to the general public. The menu will offer cold and hot plates, with a focus on seafood dishes from regional America. Old Fellows is scheduled for a summer opening.