20 August 2023

City Creek, Salt Lake City, UT

 An extant asset

1- Ensign Peak.  2- The Utah State Capitol.  3 & 4- Downtown Salt Lake City.  5- Temple Square.  6- "The Canyon" at Salt Lake City International Airport's new terminal.

Despite just about every business’s being closed on Sunday mixed with the draconian limitations on imbibing alcohol, I really do love Salt Lake City.  What it lacks in decadence and frivolity it makes up for with stunning views and friendly people.  With the shores of the Great Salt Lake to the west and the Wasatch Front to the east, it really does make quite the impression.

City Creek mallmanac ca 2018.  See the full PDF version here.

Aside from a world class airport and endless outdoor recreational options, retail in downtown Salt Lake City punches well above its weight for similar sized cities.  Preceding City Creek in downtown was The Gateway, located just several blocks to the west.  Opened in late 2001 in time for the following year’s Winter Olympics, the open-air Gateway negatively affected retail closer to the downtown core, including the flagship store of Salt Lake City based ZCMI and its connecting mall.

1 & 2- Main Street.  3 & 4- Macy's in the former ZCMI flagship.  5 & 6- Nordstrom and the mall's west end on Temple.

City Creek was built to reverse that trend, and today is the center of retail in downtown SLC.  Open-air itself but with much of the main concourse covered from the elements, the retail facility is without a doubt one of my favorite urban centers.  Built on separate sides of Main Street between South Temple and 100 S, it occupies prime real estate in the central business district.

City Creek mallmanac ca 2018.  See the full PDF version here.

Designed to reflect the colors of the Great Basin and boasting several lovely water features, including a creek meandering down the central corridor, the complex includes office space that rises above the shoppers, lending to it a faux main street feel of its own.  Nordstrom anchors the west end while Macy’s home is to the east within the former ZCMI flagship.  In between are every retail offering one would find in even the most dominant suburban retail centers.

Inside City Creek.

Conceived by the development arm of the LDS Church and located just south of Temple Square, the retail portion of City Creek was built to revitalize a city center that nearby Gateway had taken over.  Nordstrom’s announcement that they were moving their downtown store to the rival property was the impetus to its construction, and in 2012 Salt Lake City opened a downtown shopping mall that would be the envy amongst its peers.

City Creek remains a major draw within the metro, seeing much more success today than developments in similarly sized and larger cities such as Pacific Place and Horton Plaza.  But with malls failing all across the country, and especially in urban cores, I hope that City Creek continues to buck the trend.  And seriously, though, opening it for one additional day a week really wouldn't hurt. 

Valley Fair, West Valley, UT

 An extant asset

I was landing on a wonderfully clear evening into Salt Lake City International Airport when out of my window I saw the signature of something in which I’ve always taken a keen interest.  There was a large, brightly lit moat of asphalt surrounding a sprawling monolith with splashes of reds and blues highlighting the exterior walls.  There were clearly connected buildings of different heights and architecture at each end with another in the middle.  This was my first Utah shopping mall.

I found out later that this was Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City, Utah, a southern suburb in the great western metropolis of Salt Lake City.  On my next trip to this gorgeous destination, I boarded the Salt Lake City light rail’s Green Line and took it all the way to the southern end.  There, just across 2700W from the West Valley Central Station, was what I had only previously seen from a couple thousand feet up.

Valley Fair's interior.

There were no surprises at Valley Fair Mall.  There was one traditional anchor, JCPenney, and a mix of junior anchors along with your normal selection of mall shops down the main concourse.  The other two anchor spots had been subdivided into a mix of entertainment and junior anchors, while the main concourse contained a lively mix of national names and local businesses.  Most importantly, the shoppers were out and about.

Valley Fair pamphlet ca 2021.  See the full PDF version here.

It was apparent that Valley Fair has seen a recent remixing of its tenants to broaden its appeal to what is a different demographic than when it was originally built.  Luckily, during this process Valley Fair was not demalled and lost forever.

Exterior shots of the mall and JCPenney.

Valley Fair Mall opened in 1970 on what was, at the time, the exurbs of Salt Lake City.  ZCMI and JCPenney opened as the original anchors.  A major redevelopment was carried out in the late 2000s along with Meier & Frank’s takeover of the ZCMI location.  By the mid-2010s, Macy’s, which by then was occupying the Meier & Frank location, had departed with junior anchors taking portions of the building.  Today, Valley Fair Mall fills its niche within the Salt Lake City market nicely and will hopefully continue to do so.