City Creek Center
First there were debates over plans and such issues as a controversial sky bridge. Then there were scenes of a tower imploding and giant machines eating out the innards of buildings that had occupied both sides of the first block of Main Street for decades. Then came the holes dug as deep as tall buildings to make room for thousands of vehicles.
After all that, the concrete, the steel and the bricks began to rise.
The five-year gestation of City Creek Center has been a very public creative process. The birthing will be complete Thursday when the massive shopping, dining and residential complex opens its doors to the public.
Those of us who live, work or visit downtown have watched each construction phase with interest. We oohed and aahed over the precision destruction that came first. Walls disappeared overnight, leaving wires dangling, chunks of sheetrock and plaster, even traces of office detritus, exposed.
We've been enthralled as City Creek was recreated and channeled into pools, fountains and waterfalls. Installation of the unique retractable canopy that will make the center comfortable in any weather was an intriguing milestone. Our curiosity was ratcheted up as storefronts were claimed and we learned that such iconic retailers as Tiffany and locally owned Salomon would occupy the interior spaces.
The creation of City Creek Center has been a much-needed symbol of Utah optimism during dismal economic times. Its opening this week is long anticipated as a sort of returning dove, one we hope will herald a rebirth for downtown Salt Lake City and, perhaps, for the entire state.
Certainly, the $2 billion infused into the project by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has buffered Utah from the worst effects of the Great Recession and probably helped boost the Beehive State's recovery. Indeed, City Creek Center is the only sizable shopping complex scheduled to open anywhere in the country this year.
The late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley foresaw City Creek Center as the centerpiece of an aesthetic and economic renaissance in the heart of the capital city and adjacent to the headquarters of the worldwide church. He understood the importance of bringing renewed vitality to the city with a 21st century generation of downtown residents.
And so City Creek is more than a shopping mall. The high-rise residences on opposite corners of the complex will bring a permanence and round-the-clock occupancy that suburban malls lack. City Creek's industry-standard code of behavior and Sunday closing create a protective buffer for the church's more sacred activities next door on Temple Square.
Whether City Creek Center can meet our towering expectations for the city's economic future is debatable, but it's hard to argue about the sheer beauty of the place.
An artificial stream representing the center's namesake is channeled among native plantings and over two 18-foot waterfalls. A second-floor walkway lets visitors stroll from Nordstrom on the west, over the spectacular sky bridge to the east end of the center.
At last, there's a replacement for the beloved old Deseret Gym, and there's a roomy children's playground in the food court. Towering arches, meandering heated walkways and a fountain choreographed in a fantastic water ballet with shooting sprays and a kaleidoscope of lights will engage visitors of all ages, and their dogs (really!).
It's been a long time coming, and worth the wait.