Utah Voices: What makes a great American city?

Share your perspective with The Salt Lake Tribune.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The ice rink at Gallivan Center draws in skaters of all ages as people take in the lights in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023.

A lot is happening in Utah’s cities and towns. The Point, Draper’s multibillion-dollar redevelopment of a former prison, is taking shape as an “innovation district.” Developers and businesses are discovering Tooele. Salt Lake City’s population has reached a record high and is preparing to once again host the Winter Olympics.

In her book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs wrote that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” So, we asked our Top Stories newsletter subscribers to tell us: What makes a great American city?

The answers below came from those subscribers. Let us know what you think here, and subscribe to Top Stories to share your insight.

  • “A great American City starts with diversity. Great restaurants and bars, stores and businesses that aren’t just chains and strip malls; different neighborhoods with their own characteristics and people who are engaged and bring new ideas to the table. Being walkable and relatively safe (I’ve walked SO many miles in NYC!) and having ways to get around besides a car. Galleries, arts and culture are huge. A great city has something for everyone and, most of all, a great vibe created by its inhabitants’ unique sense and pride of place.” — Melissa, Park City

  • “Ample bike lanes and small business neighborhoods that are walkable and offer public gathering spaces and greenery.” — Paul, Cottonwood Heights

  • “Having a central community point that is large enough to host a lot of options (restaurants, stores, grocery) and lets people walk and ride their bikes safely. But not with the giant parking lot in the middle where people are flying through, and it isn’t safe to walk with your family or dog. People need socialization, connections, exercise, sunlight and you need a safe, car-free space for this.” — Melissa, Roy

  • “Among a zillion other factors, what the city LOOKS like is critical. Historic preservation, public art, sensible and creative new building design, and critically important, tight control over junky, garish billboards and particularly the new digital boards is imperative. Digital boards in a historic district can immediately spoil the character that makes the area special in the first place, and turn both quaintness and majesty into cheap advertising junkyards.” — Frank, Salt Lake City

  • “Walkability with things to do without undue fear. I have been fortunate to visit great cities throughout the U.S. and the world. All of them had walkable city cores with inviting shops, restaurants and sites to visit. They are less car-dependent and generally safe. They feel vibrant morning, noon and night — often a vibrant mix of residential, business and retail.” — Pat, Sandy

  • “A city with no billboards, beautifully designed buildings and green spaces, great public transit, bike- and walk-ability and underground utilities.” — Katrina, Salt Lake City

  • “A rich cultural scene including libraries, a choice of restaurants, social services, distinctive architecture, and minimal visual distraction (e.g. fewer or no billboards).” — Michael, Park City

The Salt Lake Tribune is committed to creating a space where Utahns can share ideas, perspectives and solutions that move our state forward. We rely on your insight to do this. Find out how to share your opinion here, and email us at voices@sltrib.com.