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SLC street with crime concerns could become 'neighborhood byway'

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 00:19:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Every week, RoHa Brewing Project celebrates what they call "firkin Wednesday." As in, "It's firkin Wednesday!" Or alternatively, "It's firkin Hump Day!"

As one of RoHa's founders, co-owner Rob Phillips explained: "A firkin is a little keg that's filled with a very unique beer."

They tap the firkin, as people gather around the bar and watch. On this particular Wednesday, a watermelon sour filled the firkin.

Phillips talked about how the Ballpark area brewery has grown a loyal following for firkin Wednesdays, with people who love to come join the fun of tapping the mini-keg and tasting the experimental flavor.

The brewery doubled the size of their Kensington Avenue taproom two weeks ago, to allow even more customers into their space.

"Breweries really can bring a sense of community because the locals gather here, out-of-towners gather here," Phillips said.

He described how they chose their building on Kensington Avenue because it had enough warehouse space for their brewing operation, while allowing them to welcome customers.

They've since built a sense of community inside, but Phillips indicated that the community hasn't always felt the same outside.

Like last December when a triple shooting and murder unfolded right across the street.

Read: Man arrested for fatal shooting, police say

"It was scary," Phillips said. "Everybody here was safe, that was my main concern."

The shooting happened after RoHa's normal business hours. One person was found dead in a car right in front of RoHa. Phillips could see his business on the news the next morning, surrounded by crime scene tape and flashing police car lights.

"We had a bullet come through the window," Phillips said, of what they later discovered. "We actually just had the glass replaced a few weeks ago."

Neighbors in a townhome complex across from RoHa have shared concerns with safety along the street and called for change.

Read: SLC murder site subject of numerous neighbor complaints dating back months

This week, they all found out that change could be coming, in the form of a new project.

Buried deep within the 302 pages of the proposed 2021-2022 Salt Lake City budget-- made public Tuesday night-- is one single, small line that says: "Kensington Byway Ballpark $500,000."

"It's one line in a giant book, but it's the first thing I looked for," said District 5 Salt Lake City Council Member Darin Mano, whose area includes Kensington Avenue and the Ballpark neighborhood.

Mano explained that he worked with Mayor Erin Mendenhall to set aside a half a million dollars from the general fund, to turn Kensington Avenue into an east-west neighborhood byway across the city.

With the byway, could come safety improvements along the street.

"Typically, what you'll see is bulb-outs at the corners, maybe separated bike lanes or at least striped bike lanes, and other sometimes mid-block signal crossings," Mano listed off.

The idea for the byway came from community members, Mano said, who tried for two years to get this project going.

He went on to say that funding for the byway was not recommended by the Community Developments & Capital Improvements Board (CDCIP) to be approved, so Mano thought it would not go forward.

But after working with Mayor Mendenhall, he said, they found an alternate source of funding from the General Fund and it made the cut-- one of the rare times he's heard of a project not recommended by CDCIP to do so.

He said it's not fully designed yet, and that they'd have to wait for final budget approval before moving forward. Mano said he'll work with the other six council members to make sure it stays in the final approved budget. He added that he'll be excited to talk with constituents on what kinds of improvements they want to see.
The project may seem small, but for Mano, businesses including RoHa Brewing Project, and residents, it's a huge step for safety.

"It's going to be a safe, enjoyable way to get through the city and people are going to stop at these businesses along the way," Mano said.

People can stop at businesses like RoHa.

"We're pretty excited for the what the future holds," Phillips said. "It's been a rocky four or five years here, but it's been fun to see it grow and improve."

You might even say he's firkin excited.

"This is such an up-and-coming area, that there really should be great neighborhoods, and lots of bike traffic, and lots of pedestrian traffic," Phillips said. "That's been our vision all along."