SALT LAKE CITY — As businesses try to recover from the pandemic, some in the Granary District of Salt Lake City are concerned with recent developments at a city-owned building and area known as "Fleet Block."
The building has been painted by community members over the past year to memorialize local and national people who have been killed by police or died in custody.
“It’s been a gathering point for the community, and I think overall a positive for people to have an outlet,” said Tim Dwyer, co-owner of Fisher Brewing, a business across the street from the property for the past four years. “We had people volunteering their time doing the landscaping, putting in planters, planting trees and flowers and perennials, and people were really investing in that space as a community healing point and a gathering space.”
However, over the past few weeks, the outside of the Fleet Block has been occupied by tents as a homeless encampment.
“It’s becoming quite problematic — just the level of the number of people who are here, the various issues we’re encountering,” Dwyer said. "People coming off the street, substance abuse, people who are out of their mind yelling and screaming at our patrons."
Dwyer has already had to adapt as a local business during the pandemic. He says that parking is now an issue, as people are concerned for their vehicles parked alongside that side of the street.
“It started as one tent maybe three weeks ago, and now it’s probably two dozen tents on this block face alone.”
Dwyer says that Fisher has been impacted monetarily over the past few weeks since the tents started popping up.
“We’ve had propane stolen from us, we’ve had rocks thrown through our windows,” he said. “This is now becoming a safety and security issue for us.”
Dwyer says that Fisher and other local businesses aren’t seeing any action taken by the city and problems are continuing to persist. He acknowledged the challenges that come with the present issue at the property.
However this past weekend, the building caught fire, also forcing his business to shut down completely for a number of hours. According to Salt Lake City Fire Department, the fire was intentionally set, there is a "person of interest," and the extent of the damages to the building is unknown.
The Salt Lake County Health Department conducts abatement of homeless camps in areas that are requested by municipalities and are linked to public complaint. The Fleet Block area was abated in September and is back on the county list for a future clean up.
FOX 13 reached out to the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office to address the future of the Fleet Block building and property.
They responded with the following statement:
“Throughout the past year we've heard from the community on the future of the Fleet Block, and the evolution of the area has been a discussion in City Hall for over a decade. While the City Council continues to consider rezoning for the area, in 2021 the City will release a Request for Information to engage the community in imagining the possibilities for transitioning the Fleet Block into a community asset with gathering space, green space, and access to opportunity, including living-wage jobs and affordable housing.While we work through that public process, we are committed to the needs of the neighborhood, which include the ability to access clean, safe public spaces for all, and providing outreach and resources to individuals experiencing homelesness in the area. Our Community Commitment Program has been successful at providing resources to and engaging our homeless neighbors, including 48 accepted offers of shelter or detox placement. Within the next month, we plan to bring the CCP to the Fleet Block area and are hopeful it will continue to help provide access to shelter to the people in that area.”
“I understand that it’s city property, and the city needs to own that property and step up and enforce no trespassing rules, and they’re not doing anything about it,” Dwyer said. “These are real economic impacts to us at this point, and that’s my biggest concern ... getting this sort of problem addressed in some way, I mean, people cannot live freely on the street in a way that’s threatening to our customers and our neighborhood.”