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The right thing to do, ZCMI dealmakers say
Orem can't afford to lose big tax base like the mall, officials say

OREM -- City officials who took a political beating over the multimillion-dollar deal forged with ZCMI to keep the store in the University Mall say they have no regrets.

As the ribbon was cut and the sun shone on the store's grand reopening Thursday, Councilwoman Judy Bell said she's certain the city did the right thing."It's unfortunate, though, that you take such a beating before people get to the point where they see the reasoning," said former councilman Stephen Sandstrom.

"I made my decision based on facts," Bell said. "I sat down with Phil (Goodrich, budget administrator) and went through all of the records.

"If we hadn't kept ZCMI here and the University Mall went down, every taxpayer in Orem would have seen an immediate $150 increase in taxes. If you count the trickle down effect, it would've been more like $500. We just couldn't let it go."

Bell said she's historically been against any kind of tax incentive or cash bonus offers to businesses in Orem but in this case it was clear what needed to be done.

"Someday, maybe even today, people will look at something like this and say, 'They did the right thing,' " Sandstrom said. "It's too bad some of us have to pay the price politically to get there." "This mall is the core of Utah County and the core of economic development for Orem," said Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Mike Thompson. "What has taken place here is fantastic."

Many Orem residents were taken aback in the spring of 1998 when City Manager Jim Reams and Mayor Joe Nelson announced a three-way pact with Woodbury Corp., Nordstrom officials and ZCMI that provided enough cash for ZCMI to remodel. It also allowed for a number of concessions that would enhance the mall's ability to re-energize itself.

Those considerations led to the ceremony that took place Thursday at what is now the largest retail store in Utah County.

"This is one of our, if not our most profitable stores," said Richard Madsen, chairman of the board for the ZCMI Corp. "This is the department store in Utah Valley -- the only department store headquartered in the West."

Store manager Ron Farley said the day the store originally opened in the University Mall, Nov. 24, 1972, "was a great day, and this is a great day."

He said some of the features boasted about in the 1972 press release are still in the store today, the glass-enclosed showcase elevator and the whisper-quiet escalators. The vinyl asbestos tile is gone.

"Little did we know we'd still be paying for that (vinyl asbestos) today," he quipped, referring to the store's recent expensive efforts to remove and contain asbestos material.

"We're Showing Off" sales and promotional activities will continue through Friday and Saturday, June 11 and 12, including a display on the third floor of the most expensive flatware in the world, "The Gold Grand Baroque" worth $1.2 million.