In late July 1999, some 123 weeks ago, City Weekly Publisher John Saltas looked out his window on 400 South between Main and West Temple and let out an, “Arrgghh!” He was tired of his blighted view of the neighborhood—blighted by a parking lot owned by billionaire Earl Holding. Not only was (and still is) Holding’s parking lot between 400 and 500 South an eyesore, but the Salt Lake (Olympic) Organizing Committee had just paid him a couple of million bucks to leave it that way through February 2002.
Not only is that blight, Saltas growled, but it’s subsidized blight at that. Wishing that City Weekly’s 170,000 readers get acquainted with the eyesore, Saltas stuck a picture of the parking lot on this page and began the vaunted “Parking Lot Countdown.”
Well, here we are, 123 photos later, the Opening Ceremonies for our Olympic Games a scant five weeks off and the parking lot looks just as ugly as it did in the beginning, if not more so. We were going to run the original picture alongside this one, but why bother? As it turns out, however, SLOC didn’t need Holding’s parking lot for a tent city as originally planned. That is being constructed closer to the Olympic Medals Plaza near 300 West and North Temple. It appears as though SLOC might use Holding’s land as an Olympic parking lot instead. Although nobody has told us a thing.
There have been some changes in the past 28 months. The building that once housed the now-defunct Gadgets store in the 400 block of West Temple has been torn down and smoothed into—you guessed it—a parking lot. And down the way, Earl Holding’s Grand America Hotel has risen across the street from his Little America Hotel.
The federal government had an idea to put its court office annex building on Holding’s parking lot, but one phone call from Earl to his buddy Sen. Orrin Hatch killed that notion. The court annex is now planned for the space where City Weekly now sits, along with our neighbors to the north and east, including the historic Oddfellows Building on Market Street. Let’s see, we’ll leave the parking lot and tear down historic structures. Make sense? When Earl speaks, people listen (See “Another Snow Job,” page 13).
As it happens, City Weekly graphic designers have been racking their brains, along with the brains of the rest of us, and have come up with a new format and design that should debut—God willing—next week. With the Olympics at hand and our duty as parking lot monitors fulfilled, we’ve designed the Parking Lot Countdown right out of the paper. That’s right, this is the last week. We hate to see it go, too. We’d like to chalk it up to progress, but it’s still the same old ugly parking lot and will stay that way until Earl Holding and the politicians he owns say otherwise.