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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The way City Creek is built, shoppers can park in the cavernous parking garage, hop an escalator up to the mall and walk from State Street west to West Temple without setting foot outside the mall because there’s a much-debated pedestrian bridge over Main Street.
Small merchants, restaurants not seeing benefits of City Creek

Massive downtown development has yet to provide much-needed boost.

First Published Apr 20 2012 07:40 am • Last Updated Aug 05 2012 11:34 pm

Tom Grant was so sure City Creek Center would benefit his small restaurant on 100 South that he hired several more employees to deal with the expected crowds.

But the swarms of diners at Martine Cafe lasted only through the mall’s grand opening weekend, March 22-24. Weeks later, Grant, who also is the restaurant’s executive chef, wonders whether being across the street from the massive development will be any benefit at all.

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"There aren’t a lot of restaurants in City Creek. You would think that people might leave the mall to get something to eat, but that just hasn’t happened," he said.

At least so far.

Martine is among a number of downtown businesses that hoped City Creek Center would help their enterprises and instead have found that traffic and sales are much the same as they were before the huge mall opened.

Their enthusiasm stemmed from the huge investment plowed into the development to make it a place where people from along the Wasatch Front and beyond would come to shop and stay a while.

City Creek Center, owned by mall operator Taubman Centers Inc. in partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, features more than 80 retailers, several restaurants and quick-serve eateries and a food court in 700,000 square feet of space.

On the plus side for surrounding merchants, the mall’s restaurant and retail lineup doesn’t seem to directly compete with the enterprises that surround it; nor does it seem to be drawing business away from them.

However, most agree it has yet to bring more people downtown who are willing to walk any farther than to their cars. The way the massive center was built, shoppers can park in the cavernous parking garage, hop an escalator up to the mall and walk from State Street west to West Temple without setting foot outside the development because there’s a much-debated pedestrian bridge over Main Street.

City Creek Center "definitely isn’t a negative in any way," said Main Street barber shop owner Ray Francom. "But so far, I just don’t see shoppers at City Creek venturing out onto Main Street much."

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Francom and others are seeing plenty of people who work at financial services giant Goldman Sachs, which has settled into — and begun an aggressive expansion — at 222 S. Main St.

Goldman’s highly paid workforce in the city is expected to grow to 1,600 by the end of the year. Its Salt Lake City office is its second largest in the U.S. and its fifth largest globally. By the end of the year, it could be the fourth largest.

Francom said that over time, it will be office workers employed by companies such as Goldman Sachs and those who live in the downtown area who will have the greatest impact on businesses such as his. Downtown-area workers and residents, he said, are more likely to hit the streets and explore than those who drive to City Creek Center from the suburbs, he believes.

In addition to office buildings, the LDS Church built three condominium projects totaling 425 units and a 110-unit apartment complex in City Creek. More condos likely will be built as market conditions improve.

Eventually, thousands may live in condos and apartments in City Creek. Today, however, the numbers are in the hundreds.

The potential of the entire City Creek project — the mall, the condos and apartments and offices — was one of several reasons Francom opened a second Ray’s Barber Shop location on Main Street.

Francom said that so far, few of his customers are people who stop in after having come downtown to check out the new mall.

Francis Liong, owner of Lamb’s Grill restaurant, has noticed the same phenomenon.

"It seems like everyone is gravitating for City Creek —and staying there," said Liong, who purchased the restaurant seven months ago. On a recent weekday, when his restaurant was slow around lunchtime, he walked over to City Creek Center, where he found himself standing in front of a busy The Cheesecake Factory. "The restaurant was full and there was a line of people waiting to go in," he said. "It was disheartening."

Pam O’Mara says she, too, feels a little left out.

O’Mara owns Utah Artist Hands, an art gallery, and The Artful Cup coffee shop on 100 South across from the west side of the mall. "The first weekend [for City Creek] was crazy everywhere in the city — it was like the Olympics," she said. "People were out on the street, it was really busy."

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