Five years after Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and the LDS Church fought over public access on Temple Square's Main Street Plaza, Anderson has decided he's "dead-set against" selling the public air rights necessary for the church's planned City Creek Center sky bridge one block south.
In fact, LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, during his talks with Anderson, jokingly refers to it as the "over-your-dead-body sky bridge," Anderson's spokesman, Patrick Thronson, said Monday.
Even if the City Council amends documents to allow skywalks downtown, the LDS Church will have to wait for Anderson's term to expire at the end of this year and hope that the next mayor is a more-willing seller.
Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said all the church has to do is "wait him out." City Creek Center isn't scheduled to be done until 2011. In order to proceed with designs, the church only needs the council to grant exceptions for skywalks in some circumstances, Love said.
Love has her own reservations about the bridge, wanting to ensure the expanded mall meshes with the rest of downtown - and that the span "isn't just a tool to keep its customers in the project and [that] there are escape routes."
She said that unlike the mayor, she wants to hear the plan out.
"I'm not going be dismissing it without a public hearing and a public process. But he has.
"There's the assumption this will be approved outright by us," but that won't happen, she said. "As a council, we'll work hard to address under what circumstances [a bridge] would be appropriate."
The council will hold its first public hearing on the issue tonight, and it plans to extend the comment period until its April 3 meeting - when mall developers will share their plans. The council then must weigh whether to amend city master plans that now prohibit "skywalks and other obstructions" of view corridors on Main Street.
City staff and planning commissioners have expressed concerns about whether a sky bridge, in addition to marring views, could remove pedestrians from Main Street, which the mall redevelopment project is supposed to revitalize.
If an amendment passes, it would fall to the City Council or Planning Commission to authorize the City Creek Center sky bridge.
Property Reserve Inc., the real estate arm of the LDS Church, and its mall-development partner, Taubman Centers Inc., argue their "pedestrian connector" will increase Main Street foot traffic as shoppers loop through both City Creek levels on both sides of the street.
They contend the retail project, part of a $1 billion mixed-use development over 20 acres, won't be viable without it.
Anderson's spokesman said the mayor believes the sky bridge "would irrevocably alter" historic Main Street and "introduce an unappealing gerbil-cage aesthetic" into downtown. But Thronson acknowledged that Anderson, who ultimately handed over the public right of way on the church's Main Street Plaza in exchange for a west-side community center, has no control of the issue if PRI waits to bid on the public air rights.
After plans for the bridge were revealed in October, Anderson said he opposed the City Creek skywalk.
But he softened his stance in November, saying he was open to public debate and deliberation.
Now, he's determined to preserve the public space over Main Street. PRI's plans to install a moving sidewalk on the second-story connector hardened Anderson's opposition, Thronson said.
"Just the idea that many people in this valley were descended from hardy pioneers who trekked across the United States to Utah, . . . and now we can't even walk across the street? It's pretty pathetic," the spokesman said.
* HEATHER MAY contributed to this story.
* WHEN: 7 p.m. today and April 3
* WHERE: City-County Building, 451 S. State St., Room 315
* CYBER OPTION: Written comments can be sent to council.comments