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Man, has S.L. ever changed

SHARE Man, has S.L. ever changed

After four years away from Salt Lake City, I spent the morning walking around downtown one day last week.

I was surprised to see that Brackman's Bagels is no longer on Main Street.I was also surprised to see that Main Street is no longer on Main Street.

They really did roll up the sidewalks.

Man, has Salt Lake City changed. If you haven't seen it in awhile, as I haven't, it is some transformation.

Everywhere you look, there's another construction crane. The Salt Lake skyline looks like Las Vegas, but without the pyramids.

When I left, the entrance to Crossroads Plaza was clogged with people with purple hair and numerous body piercings attempting to ollie their skateboards onto the fountains; now it's clogged with construction workers, and I swear they're the same people.

That's one way to clear the streets of backsliders. Start 400 new buildings, all at once.

If anyone is unemployed in Salt Lake City, then they don't know how to wear steel-toed shoes and a hard hat. If you can work a backhoe, you're everything in this town. Just park your Lexus and get to work.

I walked from 100 North to 600 South, which would have been from the Deseret Gym to Little America four years ago. Hah! Ancient history.

The Deseret Gym is gone, being replaced by the Legacy Project, the LDS Church's 21,000-seat arena that will have an organ bigger than Wendover but no basketball court.

As for Little America, the largest hotel in the city (849 rooms) is still there but just waiting to be dwarfed by the Little America Grand hotel going up quickly across the street.

Little America owner Earl Holding - a man about to discover what it's like to own both Park Place and Broadway - was at the new hotel's construction site when I walked by. He was personally inspecting stone and ironwork for the 24-story hotel, which will reduce its sister hotel on the other side of Main to Littler America.

All up and down Main Street, rising above the dirt about to give way to light rail, are skyscrapers so new they're still under warranty. I crimped my neck to see the 400-foot American Stores building and, next to it, the only slightly older and shorter Utah One Center building. I'd have sworn I was in New York, but no one tried to sell me a Rolex.

The Legacy arena is supposed to be finished by April 2000, in time for General Conference. The Grand Hotel is supposed to be finished by May 2000, in time for the IOC to select its rooms for the 2002 Games. The light-rail system is supposed to be finished by early 2000. I'd bet on at least two out of three.

No one personalizes the massive changes going on more than Dick Wirick.

Dick owns the Oxford Shop, a men's shoe store that has been around forever. Dick Wirick probably sold Brigham Young shoes.

For more than 40 years, the Oxford Shop was on a prime Broadway location, just off Main.

That magnificent sculpture of the ski-jumper with the "2002" bib on his back that hangs in the American Stores lobby? The area used to be the Oxford Shop.

Now, Dick Wirick and his inventory of 4,000 pairs of fine men's shoes are wedged into a location half a block off Main on 100 South, next to Cafe Molise.

I walked into the Oxford Shop and found Dick behind the counter. If I'd expected a man at odds with his city, a man railing at the skyscrapers and the light rail that body-slammed him off center stage, I would have been wrong.

Dick is all for what he calls the revitalization of downtown. He has even authored a leaflet outlining how everyone can help transform Salt Lake City into an even greater city.

I had one of those leaflets in my hand when I left his shop, which I regret to report was as empty as the Deseret Gym parking lot.

If you're downtown anytime soon, checking out the new sights, and you need a new pair of shoes . . .