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SALT LAKE CITY -- The center of Salt Lake City, under construction for months, is showing its first signs of what things will be like after the cranes, cement mixers and chain link fences go away.
The massive City Creek project is now halfway done, and some improvements are now open. Construction crews finished the final cleanup as freshly-painted parking stalls opened up Friday.
All the work is in connection with the grand opening of the new Deseret Book store, just across from Temple Square.
"We were surprised that it opened right into the store," said Bountiful resident Susan Larsen. "You have to have parking down here ... it's really convenient and nice."
"We were just surprised it was open," Bountiful resident Robert Larsen said. "We just drove around the block, saw the sign and drove in; and it's right here."
When the City Creek project is finished in two years, there will be spaces for 5,000 cars, all underground.
From above ground, the scope of the estimated $1 billion project becomes clear: construction spans 20 acres, with 900,000 square feet of retail space.
Customers said they're impressed by the new Deseret Book, the first retail shop to open.
"This is really fast, and it's just beautiful," said American Fork resident Melanie Marsh.
"It's beautiful, amazing!" said Arizona resident Julie Hoggard.
Customers also said they like something you won't see in most retail outlets: artists painting on canvas, right there inside the store.
"I think it's really important to expose art to the public, and this is how you do it," said artist Julie Rogers.
We can expect many more changes in the coming months as other elements of the project open. Construction at City Creek is expected to wrap up in 2012.