In a word: experience. In another word: entertainment. And they cropped up in abundance Wednesday to explain the changing consumer tastes in the age of e-commerce and what that means for downtown Salt Lake City.
Utahns are most interested in the core of Utah's capital city for the dining, arts and cultural events, according to a survey by the Downtown Alliance conducted in phone calls with 609 state residents.
About 72 percent of respondents said they were interested in dining opportunities, about the same for events and festivals. Another 41 percent cited the nightlife, while 54 percent picked retail opportunities.
That's why 22 new restaurants have opened in Salt Lake City in the past few months, said Stephanie Buranek, of CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment firm. Able to shop online, consumers are looking to downtown largely for other reasons, she said.
"I think that consumers, in order to get them off the couch and out of the house, they're looking for an experience," said Buranek, who appeared on a Downtown Alliance panel to talk about downtown trends. "They want placemaking, they want a sense of experience, they want entertainment."
Another panel member, Lara Fitts, director of economic development for the city, said arts and entertainment opportunities are the No. 1 reason companies give when asked about locating or expanding in the downtown.
"That blew our minds," she said.
Buranek and Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, pointed to the possibilities of the Gateway shopping center on the west side of downtown as its new owner has pledged $100 million in upgrades to transform it from largely retail to an entertainment destination.
Mathis sees the transformation leading to the creation of a sports and entertainment district anchored by the renovated Vivint Smart Home Arena, where the NBA's Utah Jazz play. It also is a venue for concerts and other events.
But Linda Wardell says all is not lost for retailers. While obituaries have been written about the malls in the throes of death, the downtown City Creek Center, where she is general manager, has sought to bring in a blend of retailers that together create an experience for shoppers.
"It's important to us as operators to be nimble and strategic, and part of that is collecting a selection of retail that is experiential and that will keep people coming into the center — something interesting and different you can only find at City Creek Center," she said.
Another report, dubbed the "2017 State of Downtown Salt Lake City," compiled these statistics from 2016 to the present:
• The downtown office vacancy rate: 14.8 percent.
• The number of new hotel rooms completed, under construction or planned: 1,054.
• The square feet of new office space completed: 654,291.
• New residential units completed, under construction or planned: 3,256.