McEntee: Salt Lake City's plans will make Sugar House even sweeter
I have to admit, when I started seeing the big changes coming to Sugar House, I had visions of some approach that would try to tart up a district that's really quite nice as it is.
As I learned more, however, I realized that Salt Lake City leaders have some good ideas that will make the city's "other downtown" an even more livable place than it already is.
Sugar House has a lot parks, movie theaters, restaurants and bars, an elegant little library, a shopping center and post office, a veterinary clinic, businesses, houses, condos, apartments, Westminster College, streams and a canopy of mature trees.
It also has parking problems, traffic congestion, too few bike lanes and empty storefronts.
So I was eager to explore what the city has in mind to revitalize this patch of the valley my family calls home.
First up is the new Sugar House Streetcar line, which should be finished by September, on a greenway that runs from about 200 East at the Central Pointe TRAX Station to McClelland Street, just across the way from the sports center at Fairmont Park. The greenway includes biking, jogging and walking lanes.
On 2100 South, the refurbished Granite Furniture building already has a couple of restaurants, and its new sign and old signature star are now clad in shiny turquoise.
Just up the street, the pit once called the Sugar Hole is being filled in by the Sugar House Crossing housing and business development, which, for the record, will have about 450 parking stalls. About 260 of them will serve residents, and another 160 will be available to shoppers and the public, according to the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency. (Parking has long been a huge concern for the district, as anyone who goes there knows.)
Plans call for that beautiful monument strip at 2100 South and 1000 East to expand south, eliminating the eastbound, right-hand turn lane and several parking stalls. The newly created pedestrian plaza will be good for the street fairs and farmers market that lure hordes of people during the summer and at Christmastime, when the venerable Santa shack opens for the season.
One proposal does worry me, however, and that's narrowing 2100 South a bit to allow for biking lanes. First, the street is a major thoroughfare (and state road) that is nearly always congested, and I've swerved to miss cyclists (and they've dodged me) too many times to be comfortable with that idea.
Up on 1300 East, plans call for finishing the tunnel that will link the district with Sugar House Park thus protecting a lot of walkers, runners and bicyclists from heavy traffic.
There are more big plans, including making sure that new construction adheres as much as possible to the distinct characteristics of the district's older buildings.
But it will all take time, and appropriately so. We've all heard promises that new construction will blend right in, only to see jarring storefronts and big, crowded parking lots.
As Kathryn Allen, manager of the Home Again store on 2100 South, puts it, "I've been waiting six years for this. It's a quaint little area, and I love it."
I know just how she feels.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @ Peg McEntee.