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Study Makes Recommendation for Theater District

Study Makes Recommendation for Theater District

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Carole Mikita ReportingAs plans for downtown Salt Lake redevelopment get underway, consultants from outside the state presented a preliminary study for a new cultural district, focusing on performing arts theatres.

The owners of the old Utah Theatre envision a grand Broadway-like venue with 2500 seats. But Salt Lake City, County and the Downtown Alliance hired an outside consulting firm whose preliminary study suggests that might be too expensive, at about 63-million dollars, instead of the 30-million Howa Construction estimated. The study suggests building a new theater downtown instead, and create a small seat Utah theatre.

The owner's response?

Dru Damico, Director of Development: "HOWA is pleased to hear that a renovated Utah Theatre on Main Street will serve as the epicenter for the new Cultural District. We've maintained for the last two and a half years that there is increasing demand for additional Arts and Entertainment facilities downtown. We are happy this belief has been independently validated. Our community and our elected officials should now come together and make the district a reality."

The feasibility study also focused on removing seats from the Capitol Theatre, down to 15-hundred. Management believes patrons would welcome the change.

Phil Jordan, Salt Lake County Arts Director: "The style of seating that was in the era when this theatre was built versus the body shapes, also the expectation of comfort level when you're paying so much more than when this theatre was built."

City leaders say the study gives them a vision of how the arts venues will fit into downtown revitalization.

Nancy Saxton, Salt Lake City Council: "I found it very interesting but also very encouraging because I think it's a viable option for Salt Lake City. It makes all the sense in the world that this is what Salt Lake City is known for now, and that we should continue to go in that direction."

A new cultural district, she says, is simply part of the question that government and now residents need to be asking, how do we grow from here?

There is one thing the feasibility study did not discuss and that's, who's going to pay for this? Renovation, redevelopment, a new theatre, will it be the private sector, public money or a combination? Certainly something that will take a lot of discussion and a lot of time.

Both arts and government representatives say whatever development decisions they make, they will include a lengthy public comment period.

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