Businesses React to New Downtown Plan

Businesses React to New Downtown Plan

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Jed Boal ReportingThe ambitious development plan announced by the LDS Church today will have far-reaching impacts in the core of the city and will challenge many existing businesses.

Business leaders and owners knew a plan was coming, they just didn't know what it would look like. Reaction on Main Street and in the core of downtown is mostly positive mixed with a good measure of caution.

A development this ambitious promises to deliver downtown a financial infusion and many businesses see real benefits, but construction could take a serious toll.

Utah Woolen Mills has been at its downtown location 98 years. It has survived many surges in construction, but the process scares fourth generation owner Bart Stringham.

Bart Stringham, Utah Woolen Mills: “We're one of the only businesses that survived the main street beautification and the light rail construction. That was very difficult. They talk about this major renovation of downtown. Make no mistake, that will be a tough thing on retailers."

Downtown business owners we talked with hope they'll be kept in the loop as plans develop. They're especially interested in the mix of stores in the new development and hope that chains don't dominate.

Tony Weller, Sam Weller Bookstore: “You must, in this over-saturated retail sector have a high level of uniqueness or excellence to prevail."

Bart Stringham, Utah Woolen Mills: “If it brings people downtown, it benefits us, always has, always will. Anyone in a position like ours would be crazy not to jump on board and be happy for something like this."

Long-time business leader Spencer Eccles calls it extraordinary that any city could get this kind of commitment from a leading player or entity.

Spencer Eccles, Salt Lake City Business Leader: “The questions asked, will if be successful? I think the answer is: there's no way it will be unsuccessful."

He likes the mixed-use elements proven successful in other downtowns, but points out it will need a lot of support from political bodies, merchants and the people of Salt Lake City.

As for Nordstrom, the new plans do not change anything. The upscale department store still wants to move to Gateway and considers that its only option.

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