New SLC planner shares Rocky's views

Published June 29, 2005 1:36 am

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Rocky Anderson may have found a kindred spirit in his new city planner.

Alexander Ikefuna likes to recycle. He is interested in international affairs. And he believes in the same anti-sprawl, smart-growth principles - which call for walkable neighborhoods, access to public transportation and protection of the environment - as Anderson.

But what sold Ikefuna on his new boss and his new city was Anderson's state of the city speech. It's known here for riling Davis County residents because it attacked commuting. But to Ikefuna, who read it from afar, the speech was riveting.

"His vision about everything, about the housing, about controlling pollution, about smart growth, about protection of natural resources and sustainable development . . . it was a magic moment for me. That sealed the whole thing for me," Ikefuna said in an interview Tuesday from Savannah, Ga.

Anderson announced Ikefuna's hire Tuesday. The 49-year-old will start Aug. 15, replacing Louis Zunguze, who was promoted to director of community development.

Before applying for the job, Ikefuna had traveled to Salt Lake City for a planning conference. He was struck by its spotlessness.

"Salt Lake is probably the cleanest city I've ever been to in the United States or North America. If I'm eating and it drops on the sidewalk, I pick it up."

So far, he has no changes planned for Salt Lake City. And he didn't want to say much about arguably the most important project that will come across his desk: the LDS Church's renovation of Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center malls. Anderson once criticized the idea of renovating the malls but now says the latest preliminary design - which has not been made public - is innovative and addresses many of his concerns.

"I can tell you this, the presence of that mall there is a blessing for downtown Salt Lake City," Ikefuna said. "It needs to be developed in accordance with smart-growth principles. It needs to be revitalized in a way that it will become a major asset for the downtown area."

Ikefuna has been a planner for 16 years, all in Georgia. He said his work in Savannah should assist him here.

Most notably, he worked on a neighborhood plan that poured government and private money into Cuyler-Brownsville, a poor, drug-infested neighborhood that is now redeveloped.

Today, Ikefuna is working on a comprehensive plan for Savannah that includes neighborhood redevelopment and infill housing and aims to reduce reliance on automobiles. Savannah, like Salt Lake City, has historic neighborhoods.

Ikefuna, who will make $85,000, was born and reared in Nigeria and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States. He returned to his native country after school, but moved back to the United States in the 1980s after a military coup.


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