Facebook Twitter

The mall is gone. Now what?

SHARE The mall is gone. Now what?

Now that the Grand Mall has been pushed out of Salt Lake City and, most likely, into West Valley City, Mayor Rocky Anderson and those members of the City Council who opposed it ought to consider what they've accomplished.

If the mega mall goes to West Valley City, it still would pose, according to the opponents' own logic, a threat to downtown businesses, just as every suburban mall does. The only difference now is that Salt Lake City will have no control over its size, design or appearance.

And what about the complaints of west side residents that the city has passed on an opportunity to give them some economic development for once? Unfortunately, a community council leader took the opportunity to attack Latino businesses that are prevalent in the area. That was wrong, and it detracted from the greater concern, which is that large-scale retailers have ignored the west side for years.

Every recent mayor has talked about attracting businesses to that part of the city, but no one has generated any real results. The Grand Mall was the first real proposal in years, but now City Hall has pushed it away. West-siders still will have to drive to West Valley City or North Salt Lake to go shopping, as they have for years.

In short, what is the long-range plan to help Main Street and the west side? It's one thing to reject a project, but quite another to identify a way to bring about something positive for these areas.

The proposal was not for a typical mall. It was for one primarily geared toward discount stores, which its developers planned to combine with restaurants and entertainment to create a unique shopping experience. In other parts of the country, these types of malls have become tourist attractions, bringing in shoppers from throughout the region. Other cities claim the malls actually have helped downtown businesses because of this. That means downtown still is likely to benefit, even though the mall will be a bit farther away than originally planned, and it makes West Valley City's eagerness to attract the project easy to understand.

Main Street, meanwhile, has a lot of reasons for optimism. A new Old Navy store is about to open on the corner of 100 South and Main; light rail now brings thousands of shoppers into the area, even on what had been typically slow weekends; and freeway construction will be completed in a year, making access to the area better than ever before.

But the west side of Salt Lake City needs help. The mayor and City Council have a duty to meet with west side residents and draft a master plan for attracting retail to the area. And the city's economic development office has a duty to actively urge businesses to move there.