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How Salt Lake City wants to turn the Ballpark area into a festive gathering place

Mayor Erin Mendenhall envisions a new library, wider sidewalks and closing part of West Temple to make way for street festivals when the Salt Lake Bees play.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks about the long-term vision for the Ballpark district during a news conference Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.

The proposed future of Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood calls for more people and more parks, more streetlights and wider sidewalks. It includes the area’s first library and a block for outdoor festivals.

This vision, which is only a draft at this point, was unveiled Monday by Mayor Erin Mendenhall outside of Smith’s Ballpark, where the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees play.

The forward-looking plan will require some heavy lifting from the city and the Utah Transit Authority, which, along with the Wasatch Front Regional Council, sponsored the effort. UTA would revamp the light rail stop at 1300 South to make it more pedestrian-friendly and approachable from not just the east but also the west, where multifamily homes are going in quickly. The city would have to update its zoning, find a place for a library, identify new parks, and provide enhancements such as more trees and bike lanes.

The goal: Make 1300 South and Main Street more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

For this vision to become a reality, the city will go through a 45-day public input period, which will start soon. The proposal then goes to the Planning Commission and the City Council for approval. At that point, the real work starts, turning bullet points into action. And some of this will take at least five years and maybe longer to complete.

“We are not talking about small-scale, superficial changes to the neighborhood,” Mendenhall said. “We’re talking about built for generations, deeply impactful infrastructure and amenities for the community, and that will take time.”

The Ballpark neighborhood stretches from State Street to Interstate 15 and from 900 South to 1700 South.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mayor Erin Mendenhall grabs a soda at the pop-up Thirst Soda Shop after a news conference announcing the long-term vision for the Ballpark district on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.

The city held a pop-up street festival outside of the ballpark Monday with free drinks from Thirst and free treats from Fillings & Emulsions. The mayor said this was a nod to one of her favorite ideas in the plan — turning a block of West Temple from 1300 South to Albermarle Avenue (about 1380 South) into a g street. This would allow the city to close it down when the Bees play or for other events, while allowing cars to drive down it at other times.

If approved, the city could designate this block a festival street quickly, but the plan says it will take five years or more to revamp the street itself, which would include removing curbing to make it a more open gathering space.

Salt Lake City owns the ballpark, which is operated by the Larry H. Miller Group. That contract ends in 2024, and there will need to be some upgrades, including adding a locker room for female umpires.

Mendenhall said the city is “deeply engaged in the collaboration with Larry H. Miller Group around what investments need to happen.” She said that includes not just updates on the stadium itself but those that add to the “street-level engagement” listed in the neighborhood planning document.

The city’s Public Utilities campus on West Temple would be moved to Redwood Road in the coming years, providing an opportunity to place a library, community center or park in the area. Mendenhall promises the city will bring a library to the neighborhood, but it is unclear at this time where that would go.

The Ballpark area has seen some significant development, and this plan envisions even additional dense housing around Smith’s Ballpark itself.

“A clear, holistic vision for this part of our community,” Mendenhall said, “has been a long time coming.”

The plan is available at slc.gov/stationareaplan.

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