Memphis has Beale Street, New Orleans has Bourbon Street, Nashville has Broadway, and soon Salt Lake City could have … West Temple?
The nightlife in those Southern cities may not be in the cards for here, but officials in Utah’s capital hope to create a festival street experience that will draw residents to the Ballpark neighborhood.
It’s part of a revitalization plan approved by the City Council last month that includes turning the area around Smith’s Ballpark into an entertainment destination, creating a more pedestrian-friendly 1300 South, making the TRAX station more accessible and welcoming dense, walkable development along Main Street.
District 5 council member Darin Mano, who lives in and represents the neighborhood, said the area has already experienced development pressure but has lacked a clear path forward. The newly adopted Ballpark Station Area Plan, he said, changes that.
“As the council and planning commission, we’ve had to just sort of take each project one by one and guess how it might fit into the bigger picture,” he said, “and now we have the bigger picture, and we know whether or not these developments will contribute to that.”
The plan focuses on the area between Interstate 15 and State Street from 900 South to 1700 South. It calls for repurposing parking lots and underutilized properties, investing in green space and building a library.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said many small area plans die on the vine, but that won’t happen in the Ballpark neighborhood.
“It’s a big step forward,” she said, “and now it’s time to spend some money and make it happen.”
Amy J. Hawkins, chair of the Ballpark Community Council, has lauded much of the plan but said it lacks an acknowledgment of the dearth of trees and doesn’t adequately address public safety. (The city recently opened a police substation inside Smith’s Ballpark, and law enforcement officials say a targeted approach to crime prevention in the area is working.)
“Crime and public safety are the most critical issues facing the Ballpark neighborhood,” she told council members during a meeting last month. “A planning document should, by definition, make these primary considerations in guiding development choices and land use in the Ballpark community.”
At the same meeting, Justin Wyse, director of programming for The Front Climbing Club at 1470 S. 400 West, backed the proposal as a way to connect his members with the neighborhood.
“This would be a huge benefit to making that area not only more walkable for our member base,” he said, “but also to pull from some of the traffic around the ballpark into our local business that serves the Salt Lake area.”
The plan, however, could face complications if the ballpark itself doesn’t have a tenant to anchor activity in the neighborhood.
The Salt Lake Bees’ lease with the city is up in 2024, and while the team’s owner, the Larry H. Miller Co., hasn’t said anything about leaving the neighborhood, it hasn’t guaranteed it will stay either.
A spokesperson for Mendenhall said contract negotiations are ongoing.
In a statement, the mayor said the city is committed to the Bees’ future in Utah’s capital, adding that the city is optimistic about continuing its partnership with the Larry H. Miller Co.
“We’re making transformational investments in our stadium with an eye toward the next 25 years of baseball in the Ballpark neighborhood,” she said, “including a field replacement, a recently passed sales tax bond for critical stadium improvements, and more.”
In a text message, Mano echoed the effort to keep the team in the city and said that field upgrades already are underway. He also pointed out that the area’s assets extend beyond the stadium.
“It’s important to not lose sight,” he wrote, “that the neighborhood’s potential is so much more than any one aspect or thing in the area.”