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What are the treasures of the west side? Group asks community to pinpoint important locations

Graduate students of University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department pose in front of a West Side community map on Wednesday. The map is part of a collaboration between Neighborworks Salt Lake and the University of Utah.

Graduate students of University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department pose in front of a West Side community map on Wednesday. The map is part of a collaboration between Neighborworks Salt Lake and the University of Utah. (Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Mestizo Coffeehouse is more than "just four walls and coffee" to the west side neighborhood it serves, its owners contend.

The coffeehouse, founded by local artists Terry Hurst and Ruby Chacón, was created to be a space to share art and an opportunity for civic engagement. The vision for a coffeehouse art gallery was shared by the nonprofit NeighborWorks Salt Lake, which focuses on strengthening neighborhoods.

Through collaboration, Mestizo Coffeehouse opened its doors in the center court of the Citifront Apartment complex, becoming the first real coffeehouse on the west side.

The coffeehouse faced many challenges shortly after opening, including the 2008 recession and a construction project that impacted community access to the building. "A lot of people lost their homes, lost their jobs — coffee shops were not thriving about the same time," said David Galvan, co-owner at Mestizo.

But this coffeehouse had become ingrained in the community. Determined for the coffeehouse to remain, Hurst traveled to Washington where he couch-surfed and appeared on local radio shows to lobby for donations.

"He's crazy, but how can you not support a crazy man with that kind of conviction?" asked Galvan.

Mestizo weathered the storm and has been the backdrop for many local gatherings and organizations. The coffeehouse has housed political campaigns, festival meetings, Dreamers, Occupy Utah, the YWCA's Violence Against Women project, League of Women Voters, Wild Utah and Black Lives Matter, among others.

Most recently, the coffeehouse has been home to a community survey effort by NeighborWorks Salt Lake and the University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department. It's called the West Side Tesoros project — tesoros meaning treasures in Italian — and is a collaboration between the two entities to document the west side areas of importance.

A giant map hangs on the wall in the backroom of Mestizo Coffeehouse, 631 West Temple, serving as a place to mark Salt Lake City's west-side community treasures. The West Side Tesoros project is a collaboration between NeighborWorks Salt Lake and the University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department to document the west side areas of importance.
A giant map hangs on the wall in the backroom of Mestizo Coffeehouse, 631 West Temple, serving as a place to mark Salt Lake City's west-side community treasures. The West Side Tesoros project is a collaboration between NeighborWorks Salt Lake and the University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department to document the west side areas of importance. (Photo: Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)

While the backroom has been rearranged and repurposed in many ways, last week it resembled much of a war room with tables rearranged and a large map looming in the background. U. professor Caitlin Cahill surveyed the map of the west side closely and pointed out labels pinned to it. Each pin and label depicts a location significant to the west side community, a place for preservation.

Cahill made for an unusual general, and said she considers herself more a geographer than anything, as she worked to document "the places where people feel safe, where they feel a sense of where their culture is reflective of a sense of belonging that reflects their community values — in the context of housing crisis and the displacement that's happening in the west side of Salt Lake City," she explained.

Displacement and gentrification have become increasing points of concern amid the affordable housing crisis in Salt Lake City. The threat of displacement for residents on Salt Lake City's west side has grown, according to the Thriving in Place study, commissioned by the Salt Lake City Council to better understand gentrification and displacement issues throughout the city.

The study revealed:

  • Displacement affects more than half of white households in Salt Lake City and disproportionately affects households of color.
  • The patterns of displacement reflect historic patterns of discrimination and segregation, with areas experiencing high displacement risk closely aligning with areas that were redlined in the past.
  • There are no "more affordable" neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, where lower-income families can move once displaced.

"Thinking about also the diversity in terms of racial ethnic diversity, and also the class diversity of the west side, we don't want to continue this way in which segregation has happened, and also addressing the concerns we're hearing people feeling concerned about safety issues, concerned about affordability," said Cahill.

A giant map hangs on the wall in the backroom of Mestizo Coffeehouse, 631 West Temple, serving as a place to mark Salt Lake City's west-side community treasures. The West Side Tesoros project is a collaboration between NeighborWorks Salt Lake and the University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department to document the west side areas of importance. (Photo: Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)
A giant map hangs on the wall in the backroom of Mestizo Coffeehouse, 631 West Temple, serving as a place to mark Salt Lake City's west-side community treasures. The West Side Tesoros project is a collaboration between NeighborWorks Salt Lake and the University of Utah's City and Metropolitan Planning Department to document the west side areas of importance. (Photo: Ashley Fredde, KSL.com) (Photo: Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)

Long-time residents of Salt Lake City's west side have been forced to relocate or merge households to remain in the same neighborhood. Community assets like grocery stores and restaurants have closed or moved. Places beloved in the community and tied to its character are slowly disappearing, along with many residents.

"Taqueria El Rey de Oros, which used to be on the west side just across from Chavez — and that's a place that has been generationally ran for a long time — ended up moving outside of the west side," explained Jasmine Walton, director of community initiatives at NeighborWorks. "I think it's just places like that that we want to make sure are being preserved. ... It's been a staple in the community for a really long time, but no longer here for all of us to continue enjoying."

The "treasure map" is intended to recognize places of importance and character, documenting the place itself and perhaps why it's no longer there. The physical map will be preserved and a digital map will be available following the survey. The groups also hope to create brochures documenting these cherished areas.

"This map, here, is just us mapping where those places are like, so we can tangibly see like this is like a location that has become so special with someone and is created the integrity of the community around them. Like it can be as simple as someone's first apartment, where someone had their first kiss," said Parvis Faiz, a student at the U. "These small instances where people are running into each other, where community is created."

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Ashley Fredde covers human services and and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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