Many large cities in the United State have specific cultural neighborhoods that have developed over the years, like San Francisco's Chinatown; India Square in Jersey City, N.J.; Little Odessa in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Little Saigon in San Diego, Calif., and Koreatown in Dallas, Texas. Salt Lake used to have Japantown on 100 South between 200 and 300 West and Greektown, which surrounded the Holy Trinity Cathedral on 300 South and 300 West. All that's left of those two neighborhoods are churches and some associated properties.
Recently, I received a call from a member of the Greek community who said they anticipate major parking problems at this fall's annual Greek Festival. If you haven't driven around the Pioneer Park neighborhood in the last few months, you wouldn't have seen the residential high-rise going up that's slapped almost onto the back of Tony Caputo's Market & Deli or noticed that Pierpont Avenue is blocked off for construction. Also, the parking lot just south of the Crane Building on 200 South and 300 West is full of construction vehicles as is the parking lot across the street where the Greek Fest sets up an inflatable bounce house and kids' slide. I suggested organizers work closely with UTA and educate festival-goers on how easy it is to ride the bus and Trax.
The Holy Trinity and the other Greek Church, Prophet Elias, and local developers are discussing how to generate income for the cathedral from its land holdings and how to creatively reinvigorate the old Greektown neighborhood with updated housing, retail and office spaces. Among the dozen or so pieces of real estate the church owns are the parking lot by the Crane Building, the pay parking lot north of the cathedral and the La France apartment complex.
The La France apartments are row houses built in 1905 before the cathedral was finished in 1923. They are a total retro heaven of run-down low-income housing and were built to last with high-quality brick construction and hardwood features. Just about every artist I've ever known has spent time there. There are porches on each little attached house, and neighbors sit in the summer and talk to people coming and going on Wayne Court and hold parties and festivals of their own. It's a pretty groovy place, and tenants never ever want to give up their leases. Sadly, La France's owners haven't had the funds to renovate the row houses and a wrecking ball might be their fate. There's no decision yet as to what the future holds for old Greektown, but the ghosts and history of the neighborhood will always remain.