Could this unlikely Utah suburb become the next Park City for arts, food, culture?

Its location — at the center of the Salt Lake Valley — sure won’t hurt.

(Midvale and Architecture Belgique Inc.) Midvale is working with a developer to transform a lot from a basketball court to a multilevel building with retail and housing.

Midvale • Main Street is on the cusp of a major makeover.

For years, this suburban city has wanted to revitalize its once-thriving hub of locally-owned shops and restaurants. Those aspirations soon could be realized as the city barrels toward transforming the fledgling district into a regional center for arts, food and culture.

“We’ve put all the different programs in place,” Midvale Community Development Director Nate Rockwood said, “so that it’s ready to kind of explode all at once.”

In its heyday, Main Street was the commercial and cultural center of Midvale, home to shops, offices, banks and restaurants. After the arrival of Interstate 15, however, much of the traffic that supported the street had a new, more convenient route to travel through the area.

Despite the decline in visitation, downtown’s charming character has made it a popular backdrop on the big screen, being featured in movies like “The Sandlot” and films from the “Halloween” franchise.

The vacant storefronts and boarded-up windows might not offer newcomers much evidence that Main Street’s next act is on the horizon, but business owners here say changes are already underway.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Midvale wants to become a hub for arts, food and culture. The key to that transformation is revitalizing Main Street as seen on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Tres Gatos Coffee owner Breck King, who opened her shop a year and a half ago, said the businesses that already exist are looking to upsize their spaces as they grow.

“It has immensely changed,” she said, “even in the last year.”

What Midvale’s makeover will entail

The transformation will start with a trickle but is scheduled to ramp up over the next few years.

“You come back in six-plus years,” new Mayor Marcus Stevenson said. “I think [it] will absolutely be a different Main Street.”

Stevenson desires visitors to experience a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly business district with festival lighting and outdoor dining options.

The city, with a population of 36,000, wants Main Street to keep its downtown identity while infusing a personality into the area that will attract people from across Salt Lake Valley.

Rockwood, who left his job with the resort town of Park City to help Midvale’s Main Street tap its potential, said the stage is set for a makeover. Behind the street’s empty buildings, he said, are property owners who understand and believe in Midvale’s vision.

“We’re right at the point where it’s a chicken and an egg sort of thing,” he said. “It’s like, who goes first?”

Main Street won’t feature an anchor tenant that will spur development from others, so Midvale is trying to be the catalyst in making the area feel like a special place that people yearn to visit.

In June, the city will host an art festival, where 20 to 25 murals will be painted in a three-day span. Over the summer, Midvale will test food truck nights to gauge interest before building a food truck plaza on the street’s north end.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The old Midvale History Museum will be redeveloped into an artist space. Midvale wants to become a hub for arts, food and culture. The key to that transformation is revitalizing Main Street as seen on Friday, April 22, 2022.

The Redevelopment Agency is working to sell a basketball court it owns to a developer who will transform it into a multistory building with retail on the bottom and housing on the upper floors.

An old city museum soon will see new life as a studio and gallery space for area artists. And Midvale plans to install new streetlights and string up outdoor festival lights to create a more inviting environment.

While city officials have looked elsewhere for inspiration, they’re not trying to replicate any one place.

“We want it to still evolve organically,” Rockwood said, “but we just want to juice it with money.”

How to pay for the redevelopment

The funding structure is the key difference between the redevelopment talk of yesteryear and the ambitious efforts of today.

Midvale Redevelopment Agency Manager J. Cody Hill joined Rockwood in selling the idea of Main Street as a cultural hub to entities that collect property taxes — like Salt Lake County and the Canyons School District.

During the past year and a half, officials have gathered support for an agreement that will pump money into Main Street for the next 20 years, or until the project area reaches a $15.5 million cap. Nearly $2 million of that is committed to public art.

Taxing entities will allow some of the money they would have collected from increased property tax revenues stemming from new growth to be redirected to the city’s RDA for the Main Street project. The idea, Hill said, is to invest in a stagnant area and expand the tax base in the long run.

Successfully funding the project, he said, depends on pumping up property tax revenues.

“If we aren’t able to stimulate growth,” Hill said, “then we don’t get any money.”

Rockwood said Midvale has the demographics to make his vision work. There are young professionals working nearby and plenty of condominiums in the area to generate local support for Main Street.

But what made the city’s pitch to the taxing entities work, he said, was selling the belief that the benefits of redevelopment would extend beyond Midvale. Rockwood said the project is poised for success because of the city’s location, sitting in the center of the valley at the crossroads of major freeways and linked to public transit.

“Everybody from the valley,” he said, “can take advantage of this.”

Businesses back the idea

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Midvale wants to become a hub for arts, food and culture. The key to that transformation is revitalizing Main Street as seen on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Business owners have embraced Midvale’s reimagination of Main Street. Revitalization is what inspired Kellie Jackstien, owner of florist Artisan Bloom, to move her shop to the area in 2019.

“It’s a quaint, charming Main Street,” she said, “and I think that’s what draws people to it.”

Jackstien does worry about the area losing its allure as it evolves — along with its ability to support increased traffic.

Midvale has adopted new zoning that puts an emphasis on the appearance of new buildings, reserving ground floors for retail and restaurants, and allowing upper floors to be used for additional retail or housing.

The goal: Preserve the downtown vibe.

If the area sees the success city officials expect, any parking problems will be solved because the bulk of the $15.5 million budgeted for redevelopment will be steered toward creating ample parking next to Main Street. The city has already snatched up some lots so visitors won’t have any issue finding a spot.

Lane Dillman, the owner of the Old Towne Tavern, welcomes the redevelopment but remains skeptical that it will come to fruition. It’s a big project, he said, and cleanup of the area has been underway for years.

But if the city’s efforts do move forward, and Main Street bustles with new visitors, Dillman isn’t worried about being left behind. The more the city invests in the area, he said, the better his business will be.

“Old Towne is a staple of old Midvale right here,” he said. “It is. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

CorrectionMay 2, 9:55 a.m.: This story has been updated to correct the name of the school district.

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