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Gathering spot planned to sweeten Sugar House

Published May 27, 2013 7:42 pm

Plaza • SLC trying a "lighter, quicker, cheaper" philosophy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Take a deserted parking lot, splash down a colorful design on the asphalt, truck in some tables, chairs and umbrellas, and invite a few food vendors.

What have you got?

Say hello to a "tactical urbanism project" — that's planner-speak for Salt Lake City's first attempt at bringing life to a philosophy dubbed "lighter, quicker, cheaper."

In this case, the result will be Sugarmont Plaza, a temporary public gathering spot to be located in the parking lot at the former Deseret Industries store in Sugar House, 2227 S. Highland Drive. The property is now owned by the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency (RDA).

The "lighter, quicker, cheaper" paradigm is being introduced in Utah after a troop of Salt Lake City staffers flew to Vancouver, B.C., in August. Among other things, they returned with the strategy that allows the creation of inviting public places without the usual and often drawn-out planning process.

Sugarmont Plaza will cost an estimated $12,580 — furniture and all — and is scheduled to open June 14. It will act as public open space during the makeover of the Sugar House Monument Plaza at Highland Drive and 2100 South.

By contrast to the Sugarmont project, the proposed Monument Plaza is priced at about $1.7 million. It has been in the planning stages for seven months. Earlier this month, the City Council voted to put off approval of the design until the public had a chance to weigh in on the plan.

The temporary plaza is the brainchild of Mark Morris of the nonprofit Friends of the Streetcar and Amy Barry of the Sugar House Community Council. The two saw the vacant parking lot as an opportunity to improve public space. They drew up a plan, Morris said, and approached the RDA for funding.

"It's temporary," Morris added, "but we hope it will encourage the public to support a longer-term public space in that location."

City Councilman Stan Penfold, who is also chairman of the RDA board, is betting the temporary Sugar­mont Plaza will be a hit.

"I've seen a lot of examples [in other cities] where tables and chairs activate a space," he said. "People can go there and have lunch or just kick back."

Penfold said he hopes to see more tactical urban projects around the city.

"We're kind of seeing how this works," he said. "I think there are more opportunities downtown and in neighborhoods."

csmart@sltrib.com

Plaza kickoff event

A party to open the Sugarmont Plaza with food and live music is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 14 at 2227 S. Highland Drive.