I'm a business owner in what is officially recognized as "downtown" by Salt Lake City and the Downtown Alliance. Unlike business owners outside this mapped area (North Temple to 400 South and Interstate 15 to 300 East), I pay a special assessment each year on my commercial property in this Commercial Business District so that people will come in from the 'burbs and enjoy themselves. By focusing on events, marketing and economic development, we get a more vibrant area in which to work, live, shop and play. DTA partners with Salt Lake City and the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor things like the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park, the GreenBike program, Eve—though it's now known as Last Hurrah—and others.
The DTA board is comprised of large business owners and managers and Salt Lake City/County officials, including Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber, Visit Salt Lake's Scott Beck, Derek Kitchen, Kim Abrams of Goldman Sachs and Judy Cullen of Squatters. I served on the Board myself for several years and I was chair of the Downtown Merchants Association—I think I might have been the only minority on the board until Derek Kitchen was elected.
In January, DTA had a mini-retreat to look at their vision of the future. Currently they get $2.5 million from special assessments of business properties like mine, which is 40 percent special assessment funds and 60 percent sponsorships, donations, attendance fees and partnerships with other groups. Here's a rundown of the issues discussed: The GreenBike program had a good start and is working well, but it needs to be set free as DTA is not a bike-rental company. Eve was a blast for many years (especially with the world's biggest mirrored disco ball) but it sucked money like a slot machine in Wendover. Now it's the much cheaper one-night Last Hurrah that costs less than $20,000 (versus the $400,000 spent on the last Eve). At some point, the highly successful Downtown Farmers Market might also need to be cut loose, especially if a permanent farmers market goes in downtown (yes, it's in the works). Finally, the DTA board wants to get more aggressive with changing liquor permissions for the Eccles Theater. Sure, you can drink a beer at the lobby restaurant but can't bring it into the show or buy a glass of—don't get me started.