Editor’s note: This post was originally published as an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, August 5, 2012. It is authored by Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.
Downtown Salt Lake City is in the midst of a remarkable transformation and this is a good time to think about the next phase of our city’s development. There is a growing consensus that the Utah Performing Arts Center will be built downtown in the next few years. This modern, 2,500-seat theater will attract a much larger array of touring Broadway shows, concerts, comedy acts and family shows.
The idea of a large civic theater has been discussed for decades and it’s hard to see our community prosper long-term without this amenity. Salt Lake is growing up and a performing arts center of this magnitude is part of the cultural landscape of any economically dynamic region. It is also an important financial engine that helps support our city’s creative class by attracting businesses and relocating professionals.
A performing arts center will help anchor the cultural core of our urban center, complementing other downtown institutions like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony and Opera, Ballet West, the resident companies of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and myriad art galleries. Downtown also has the facilities to accommodate large numbers of theater patrons, with multiple restaurants, convenient parking, public transit and thousands of hotel rooms.
The center’s proposed location at 100 South and Main Street is on land owned by the LDS Church and Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency. Nearly four years have passed since Mayor Ralph Becker, Gov. Jon Huntsman, and LDS Church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton announced the site. Since then, city leaders have carefully studied the impact of the center on other arts organizations, reviewed financing options, and developed a detailed and thoughtful plan.
In part, these plans use incremental property tax revenues, generated downtown and designated to redeveloping downtown, to help fund the new facility. As a result, no new taxes will be needed. In addition to supporting a more robust downtown while creating a regional cultural draw, the theater will improve sales and property values for existing properties, generating even more revenue for local and state tax coffers. What’s more, financial models show the center will also generate an annual income that can be used to help other arts facilities and organizations throughout our community.
Next week, the Salt Lake County Council will be considering a partnership with Salt Lake City to manage the facility and support the financing plan that has already received up to $18 million from Salt Lake City for design and development. The Downtown Alliance and Salt Lake Chamber strongly encourage county officials to partner with the capital city and operate this new facility as part of the county’s Center for the Arts portfolio of cultural amenities that includes Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theatre and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
Great things are happening downtown right now with the opening of City Creek Center, The Leonardo and Gallivan Plaza. From thousands of new office workers at 222 South Main and Gateway Six, to new stores, galleries and restaurants on Main Street, Broadway and at The Gateway — our downtown is thriving.
Add in world-class ballet, opera and symphony, hundreds of new residents and record-setting crowds at festivals, markets and other events and you have a city center that is truly on the rise.