Salt Lake City’s Marmalade neighborhood used to be easier to breeze by on the way to downtown or Davis County, when it had 300 West but not much else at its heart.
But now, people come to Marmalade to grab brunch, or coffee, or check out a book, said Salt Lake City Council member Chris Wharton, who represents District 3, which includes the neighborhood.
“The idea is that we want them to do other things while they’re there,” Wharton said of visitors. “And if you don’t have those smaller local attractions ... it’s just a community corridor.”
Over the past few years, a branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library cropped up, along with more businesses, and the area saw safer street crossings installed with pedestrian-friendly curbs and landscaping — all making Marmalade a destination in its own right, according to Wharton and local business owners.
“If we give them stuff to look at, I think they’ll slow down a little bit,” said David Morris, a co-partner with Jesse Wilkerson of Handle Bar, located at 751 N. 300 West.
Where exactly is Marmalade?
Marmalade’s boundaries depend on whom you ask. According to the city, the neighborhood is located on the western slope of Capitol Hill, bordered by 200 West and Victory Road/Columbus Street to the west and east, respectively, then bordered by 300 North to the south and 900 North to the north.
Wharton said some people consider Marmalade to be everything below Wall Street. But as a Marmalade resident since 2018, he draws a simpler map: “I would just describe it generally as the whole west side of Capitol Hill and going down to the train tracks.”
The city says Marmalade is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Utah, with the majority of homes built before 1930.
Wherever you believe the borders are, you’ll know you’re in Marmalade when you find charming houses lining streets that bear fruit-themed names, like Quince and Apricot — odes to the orchards that once grew there.
A ‘barrier’ in the neighborhood
With 300 West (or State Highway 89) cutting through its center, Marmalade has often been used as a corridor to exit and enter Salt Lake City, and that’s been true for decades.
Morris, of Handle Bar, said “if you’re coming from Layton or Ogden or whatever, and you want to go downtown, that’s definitely a way to sneak through. Or if you’re trying to get on the freeway and head north to go home after working downtown, you might blast through that neighborhood.”
There’s also “a constant parade of construction trucks” that use 300 West to get on the freeway at 600 North, he said.
The wide road “has been a thoroughfare for generations,” Wharton said. “And so that street has been very much about cars and truck traffic.”
In 1996, a report on the West Capitol Hill Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan described Marmalade as an area where high traffic volume served as a “barrier” to the community.
Over the 25-year course of West Capitol Hill Project Area, which was established in 1996 and completed in 2021, one goal was to make 300 West safer and more usable for pedestrians.
Morris said the situation has “gotten a lot better,” especially since the city installed an island, crosswalk and flashing lights on the corner in front of Handle Bar.
The city finished improvements of nine blocks of 300 West in 2022, with upgrades made to pedestrian safety through the use of landscaped median islands, Americans with Disabilities Act enhancements, crossing signals, curb extensions and more, according to Amanda Greenland, a spokesperson for the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City.
Marmalade’s changing landscape
Once considered a blighted area, the Marmalade neighborhood started seeing a renaissance in 2018, the year Wharton moved in.
By then, Marmalade Jam Fest — an annual arts, crafts and music festival — was a few years old, and new housing was being built. Former gay bar Club Jam had closed, but Handle Bar had opened in its place. And the Marmalade library had opened two years prior, in 2016.
Erin Mendoza, branch manager at the library, said she hopes it gives the neighborhood an “anchor.”
“Anytime you put a library in a community, you’re going to help to ground that community even more than it already existed,” she said.
But at the time, the three brick commercial buildings between 500 and 600 North along 300 West were still mostly empty, Wharton said. The stretch stands out as one of Marmalade’s only walkable commercial areas.
Andy Tran, who owns the buildings, said that when he purchased them during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were only two or three tenants. Now, there’s about seven, and “people are heading down [to] that area,” he said, adding that his goal is to “activate” the neighborhood.
Adam Diener, who owns Vegan Daddy Meats at 569 N. 300 West, said he’s seen a good amount of walk-in traffic since his soft opening in July, and already has regulars.
Chris Madrill, who owns Marmalade Brunch House (535 N. 300 West) with his brother Nelson Madrill, as well as Adam Li, the manager at Uncle Hot Pot (569 N. 300 West), both said the neighborhood has been friendly and welcoming since they opened their businesses this year.
“It’s been amazing support, amazing feedback,” Chris Madrill said. “We love our locals and regulars. And love to hear about how close they live and how convenient our little brunch restaurant is for them to pop in and have some breakfast.”
Natalie Cruz, owner of The Petal Coop (577 N. 200 West), opened her flower shop in 2022 and supplies the blooms that brighten the tables in Marmalade Brunch House. She said in an email that she chose the neighborhood “to be part of a walkable, character-rich community.”
Established businesses are seeing new growth as well. Manager Sean Mena at Blue Copper 2000 (401 N. 300 West), and Jeff Carleton, co-owner of cider brewery and bar Mountain West Cider (425 N. 400 West), both said they’re doing better than last year.
“We have a lot of folks that either walk here from the apartments that are just south of us, or drive here to pick up cider,” Carleton said. “We’ve got a good support group.”
Zach Marcum, the floor manager at farm-to-table restaurant Arlo (271 N. Center St.), said the business has been seeing a “steady rise” since opening in 2020.
One challenge that comes with opening a business in a neighborhood like Marmalade is not getting the walk-in traffic that accompanies large events downtown, Marcum said. But at the same time, he said Arlo’s location can allow people to dine close to downtown without getting caught in the hustle and bustle.
Another 9th & 9th?
As Marmalade grows and changes, Wharton said it could become another node in Salt Lake City, similar to the 9th and 9th neighborhood.
Good things have already happened, like the construction of Mountain West Cider’s beer garden. “Nobody had a place like that to congregate before,” Wharton said. And more good things are coming, including a plaza-like pocket park east of the Marmalade library, set to open in October. The half-acre of open space will feature a water feature, shaded sitting area and public art.
But Marmalade has room for improvement. The neighborhood still doesn’t have a grocery store since the 2022 closure of Lee’s Market. More retail is something it needs overall, Wharton said, along with better use of certain warehouses, historic spaces and offices spaces, all in the hopes of making the area more lively.
“We want people to come to Marmalade and have dinner at Shinobi and then walk two blocks to go to a play at Salt Lake Acting Company,” Wharton said.
Or on weekends, he’d love to see families stop by the library, then pick up flowers or cards at the Petal Coop, he said.
“That’s what we want to see, so it is a destination,” he said.
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