Walking along the faux creek bed prior to City Creek’s grand opening, gazing up at the retractable glass roof, even the most jaded reporters were wide-eyed and curious. The creek, after all, is stocked with trout that were no doubt waiting for their cue to bob to the surface as mall developer and CEO Robert Taubman led a coterie of media around the mall.
Taubman had every right to be proud. Two 18-foot-tall waterfalls. A creek that meanders 1,200 feet through the mall. An etched-glass skybridge. Fire- and water-dancing fountains. Underground sidewalk heaters that will melt ice and snow. An outdoor “concierge” desk with flat-screen weather and airline monitors. He was rightfully animated, not only because of the vistas of the snowcapped Wasatch Mountains in the distance, but also the view of the Cheesecake Factory from the balcony overlooking it.
LDS Church leaders, likely the smiling older guys dressed in suits who were touring the grounds at the same time as reporters, seemed to be basking in pride, as well. As those who coughed up the estimated $2 billion to bring the project to fruition, they were busy looking at other buildings set off by City Creek’s flowing balconies: the intermittent sightings of Temple Square icons like Assembly Hall and the Church Office Building. The view of the church’s home base from the skybridge is enough to bring a flutter to every faithful member’s heart.
With this project, the LDS Church scored big in bringing the world of commerce to the church’s front door. Local residents and visitors who patronize the nearly 100 retailers and restaurants will be treated to multiple favorable impressions of Temple Square’s architecture. And then there are those who actually opt to reside in a mall (who does that?), those occupying the 425 condos and 110 apartments that are part of City Creek, who can now claim to live in Temple Square’s “halo.” People drawn to shop at City Creek will be snuggling with the LDS Church, no matter what their religious persuasion might be.
The world-class mall up the street from City Weekly’s office suggests that we who live in Utah often get far more than we deserve. What city our size can support a mall of City Creek’s scope or our resident ballet, opera, theater and dance companies that seem to thrive here? How do we account for the lack of an inner-city ghetto and the relative safety on our downtown streets?
So, thanks, LDS Church. Thanks for the mall. And thanks for a downtown so safe, and so germ-free, that people seldom take precautions and are known to walk into the path of a TRAX train while mindlessly listening to music on their headphones.
But how much does this largesse, this embarrassment of riches, cost us? Every year, from January through March, Utahns of every stripe have to gird their loins in anticipation of how their lives will be affected by a Legislature “inspired” to pass bills that the church finds acceptable.
This year, those who enjoyed smoking a hookah or a vapor cigarette in a bar will puff on borrowed time. As the Legislature sent a terse message to Washington, D.C., demanding to be let out of federal health-care requirements, it left the future of Utah’s health care up in the air. And women making the difficult decision to end their pregnancies are being punished and are now forced to wait 72 hours.
This being an election year, the bills this session were tame in terms of legislative antics. And the mall opening, coming at the end of the legislative session, served to assuage any political upset or outrage. It’s called retail therapy for a reason.
All that brings us around to this special issue we produce each spring, the Best of Utah. You’ll note that even though City Creek is the best in the land, it didn’t make it into our guide. Not that we’re being mean-spirited, because we’re not. The mall is a good one—but it opened too late for consideration this year. And there’s a rich and riotous life beyond a mall.
Better yet are the 450 local businesses that we’ve highlighted in this guide. As part of a 23-year tradition, Best of Utah is our chance to celebrate the mom & pops, the locally owned and operated one-offs. These small businesses are really the legs upon which the local government stands, and collectively have far more power than they often realize.
They gathered up their notes from various notebooks and desk drawers to put forth the effort you see here.
We write these entries up in a “cone of silence”; our ad staff is on a separate floor and we don’t even exchange pleasantries with each other, let alone discuss Best of Utah (or any editorial feature, for that matter), until after the issue comes out, when we meet up in a bar and smoke our e-cigs on the patio.
So consider this issue a guide to life when you’re up City Creek without a paddle. And remember, we do have it good in Utah, regardless of who is calling the shots.