City Creek Center was attracting national notice long before its glitzy grand opening a year ago this Friday.
As the nation was struggling with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, City Creek was the first enclosed U.S. regional shopping center to open in six years — and the only shopping center of its size to debut in 2012.
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Fears of “Mormon mall” rules subside
Because of City Creek Center’s proximity to the LDS Church’s Temple Square and because of the church’s business partnership with mall operator Taubman Centers Inc., some civil liberties advocates worried a year ago that rules of conduct would be unusually strict and lead to confrontations. Taubman officials have been quick to point out that any restrictions are identical to ones at any of Taubman’s other two-dozen centers nationally. And although City Creek marketing director Dee Brewer said he’s been surprised by the number of times people have asked whether shoppers would be told to leave for violating rules, he noted ejections have been rare and conflicts few. The most frequent question, he said, is whether shoppers are allowed to sport tattoos. The answer? Yes, they are.
Feeling the impact of City Creek Center
Harmons City Creek » First downtown market in half a century; serves 1,000 lunches weekdays and sales are up 7 percent since its opening.
The Gateway » Lost 16 stores to neighboring City Creek but has Megaplex movie theaters, Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, Clark Planetarium and the Urban Art Gallery, and has started a $2 million renovation.
Fashion Place Mall » A spokeswoman said sheer distance means there’s little competition with City Creek. The Murray mall has several of the same stores, such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, Apple, H&M and Crate & Barrel. It scored a recent coup by landing Utah’s first Lego store.
Station Park » Several City Creek tenants also are opening at the Farmington mall, such as Chico’s, H&M and Brighton Collectibles. Harmons is the grocery chain’s first Davis County store.
On Friday, the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of retail shopping celebrates its first anniversary with promotions, live music and sales. And although it might not have totally revolutionized the retail landscape along the Wasatch Front, it certainly has helped transform it, with more changes to come.
One key rival, Fashion Place Mall in Murray, has kept pace and recently scored a big victory in attracting Utah’s first Lego store. But it turns out City Creek couldn’t have accommodated the iconic toy company because 98 percent of its space is filled.
"We don’t have a lot of space left," City Creek general manager Linda Wardell said. "For people coming into the market looking for a place to locate, there may not be many choices [here]."
She wouldn’t disclose sales numbers for the mall, but Wardell said City Creek has "exceeded our expectations" for both luxury stores and mid-range retailers dubbed familiar favorites.
Bucking convention » The massive 20-acre development is nestled in one of Utah’s largest-ever commercial real estate projects. A re-created stream runs through it. There are two 18-foot waterfalls, three fountains of dancing water and retractable roofs. Adjoining condominiums and apartments add an urban depth and breadth. Bucking an industry tradition, only two restaurants are open for business on Sundays and most of its eateries are alcohol-free.
In many respects, City Creek is like few other shopping malls in the country. It is situated in a city ranked No. 4 nationally in the increase of people living within 2 miles of its city hall — behind only Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.
"City Creek has not only helped the downtown market, it has put Salt Lake City in the forefront on the national scene," said J.R. Moore, a retail specialist at commercial brokerage CBRE. "We’re seeing new tenants and developers taking a renewed interest in the Salt Lake market that we haven’t seen for years."
Opening two years after the depths of the historic economic downturn and after a record drop in retail sales for Utah’s capital city, the mall hit town at an opportune time. According to data from the state Tax Commission, total taxable sales dropped to their lowest level in the past nine years in 2009, dipping below $2 billion. But they had started to bounce back with modest gains in 2010 and 2011 as City Creek’s completion neared.
The center’s economic largesse since then, however, hasn’t spilled over to other malls situated on the periphery of the massive project hugging the LDS Church’s Temple Square.
The Gateway, a few blocks west, lost 16 retail outlets to City Creek, including in late 2012 the Apple Store and its ever-present large crowds. Although officials associated with The Gateway said at the time the mall would endure, there’s no denying that empty storefronts and smaller crowds have become more common. A $2 million renovation is said to be in the offing, but new-tenant announcements apparently are not.
The effect on Trolley Square mall, about 2 miles to the southeast, has been less severe but still noticeable.
City Creek lured one of its big tenants, home furnishing retailer Restoration Hardware. And in November, Trolley Square was placed into receivership after Bank of America filed a lawsuit claiming the mall owner owed it and other lenders $57 million. San Diego-based real estate services company Trigild has been appointed to operate the center, but its representatives declined to comment for this story.
Some tenants say the opening last year of a gleaming Whole Foods store has been a godsend, but empty storefronts are visible at Trolley Square as well.
When it comes to City Creek’s positive impacts, the results are still playing out. On Main Street downtown, some owners of nearby businesses say they have seen more foot traffic, but not necessarily more customers as a result. That could change in time, said Steve Bogden, of Coldwell Banker Commercial.
"It usually takes three or four years for people to understand that they can finally go downtown," he said. "I still have people tell me that they haven’t seen City Creek, and [that] it’s supposed to be pretty cool. It is.
"So much is happening downtown. Office buildings continue to fill and grow, and that fact alone means we’ll see plenty of traffic. City Creek has some fun marketing programs, and they know how to do it. "
Utah Woolen Mills, the clothing store at 59 W. Temple, endured five years of construction while City Creek was built. The store sits in an LDS Church-owned building that was spared demolition. Co-owner B.J. Stringham said he has seen more younger customers since the mall’s opening, in addition to older ones who had passed the store for decades without stopping by — until now. Utah Woolen Mills has its own parking lot, just east of the shopping center’s South Temple parking entrance.
"People thought we sold yarn or something," said Stringham of the store that opened in 1905. "They were surprised at the high-quality clothing that we offer. Many had no idea."Next Page >
City Creek Center anniversary sales*
City Creek Center » Get a free tote when you spend $200 in one day of shopping or dining; present receipts at customer service desk (ask about gift card promotion)
AT&T » $100 off any computer tablet with two-year agreement. Free equipment, waived fee and two months free service on any home-phone activation with two-year agreement; 20 percent off accessories
Banana Republic » 25 percent off your entire purchase, valid Friday only
Bauer’s Fashion Eyewear » 20 percent off all merchandise, including sale items
Clarks » 20 percent off all handbags, accessory items
Disney » $7.50 Scented Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse plush with every $25 purchase
Express/Express Men » Her: 30 percent off dresses, tees $15.90 and up, shorts $29.90 and up
Him » Tees $19.90, Polos $24.90, shorts buy one, get one for $29.90
GODIVA Chocolatier » Get a free GODIVA apron with a purchase of $20 or more
LensCrafters » 50 percent off lenses with a frame purchase
Macy’s » Drawing for a $250 gift card, music and a fashion show at 2 p.m. Saturday
N3L Optics » Buy one pair of sunglasses, get a second pair at $25 off
Nordstrom » Earn triple points for every purchase you make Wednesday through Friday with your Nordstrom credit or debit card
Pandora » Receive a sterling silver Pandora clasp bracelet (a $65 value) with your Pandora purchase of $100 or more
Swarovski » Enjoy fun and flair on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Receive crystallized nail polish set with any $150 purchase
Texas de Brazil » $25 off two regular dinners
TUMI » 20 percent off everything
White House|Black Market » Receive a $25 Style Reward with every $125 purchase
* Valid Monday through Saturday unless otherwise noted. All offers subject to availability. See stores for details.
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