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Time for mall players to come to table

Wilson: It's time to take a fresh look at the Main Street-Nordstrom-Gateway hassle. This political donnybrook has been doomed from the beginning by hard bargaining over positions.

Nordstrom's "our way or the highway" position has competed with Main Street's position of not letting the store leave for The Gateway.

Maybe if we got away from positions and looked at interests a bit of clarity would creep into the debate. Then we might get those interests together and work something out that is in the best interests of the community.

We must be realistic here in dealing with interests. No doubt Nordstrom, as a free player, has a right to close the store and leave town if it can't find an alternative location in Salt Lake City. This is complicated by the fact that Nordstrom will likely reject the carrot offered to improve the mall by the new owners of Crossroads, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It appears no discussion or negotiation will alter Nordstrom's position.

Other interests seem more flexible. It is certainly in the interest of Main Street and the community to keep a large and classy anchor like Nordstrom. It adds to vitality, attracts people, and provides visitors and customers to other Main Street locales.

But can't those interests be handled any other way? Could attention to housing on Main Street provide a critical mass of people and customers? Would other major retailers find Main Street more tenable if that critical mass were attained? What if Main Street made a major play for street-level smaller businesses? Gateway has many national stores; perhaps Main Street could go for more local ownership. Smaller more user-friendly establishments could provide a new axis for the more up-scale Gateway and reasons to visit both.

The interests of Main Street now seem more flexible to negotiation than the interests of Nordstrom. And, remember, Nordstrom has every right to pull out and leave a gigantic hole in Salt Lake City if it doesn't get The Gateway location. The plum for Main Street is keeping Nordstrom as close as possible to provide circulation of shoppers. The other outcome is for Main Street, and the city, to lose everything.

Perhaps it is time to recognize that the old Main Street's vitality was largely spurred by the strength of retail Broadway (300 South). But as a retail center, Broadway died years ago. A new pole on the commercial axis is now found at Gateway. We just need to connect it. We have already done it with light rail. Now we need to develop attractions that would move people back and forth. Nordstrom and the rest of Gateway would provide a strong western pole for the housing and street-scale businesses of Main Street.

Resources become critical. But there are important new resources now on the table that can be enlisted for Main Street. First, the LDS Church has bought the Crossroads mall and church policy is to make sure that the immediate Mormon Temple environs remain wholesome. That is well-established. So count on the wealthiest tenant in town, with enormous staying power, to remain steadfast. Another resource is the tax increment fund that is controlled by the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, one and the same as the City Council. Couldn't future tax increments, and they will be massive, from The Gateway be captured for the improvement of Main Street?

It's time to bring the major players to the table. Leave the positions at the door and talk interests. It may shed new light.

If we lose Gateway, it is lose for Nordstrom, lose for Gateway, and lose for Main Street. If Nordstrom goes to Gateway, it is win, win and half a win. Why not take half a loaf when you are faced with losing the whole thing?

Webb: It's all pretty simple to me. A deal is a deal. Integrity matters. If Nordstrom decides to strut out of town with a haughty toss of its well-coiffed corporate head, so be it. Let 'em go. Nordstrom knows the rules. The Boyer Co. knew the rules when it built The Gateway development. I'm betting other upscale department stores exist out there who want to come to Salt Lake City and are willing to play by the rules.

I sympathize with Salt Lake City Council members, who face one of those tough, no-win decisions guaranteed to make enemies no matter how they vote. That's why we pay them the big bucks. Mayor Rocky Anderson, after flopping around for a while, wants to allow Nordstrom to flee to Gateway, while the City Planning Commission voted against the move, upholding existing zoning regulations.

If Salt Lake City ever wants to become the sophisticated, cosmopolitan city its mayor envisions, then it shouldn't let Nordstrom jerk it around. We will do just fine without Nordstrom.

Jim Hansen is inching ever closer to running for governor. I've guessed that Hansen ultimately won't run, opting instead for a possible appointment to the national base closure commission and more time for fishing and grandchildren.

But Hansen is putting together a campaign team and a campaign plan, establishing a budget and fund-raising goals, and looks for all the world like a candidate. He hasn't pulled the trigger, but he's sighting down the barrel and his finger is getting itchy.

If Hansen is in, the gubernatorial contest gets even more interesting. He probably hurts Marty Stephens the most, cutting into his conservative base.

But a Hansen candidacy raises many questions. He's never run statewide. He's never had to raise a great deal of money. Most of his races have been relatively easy. Is he too old? Too conservative? Too partisan? Is he too much of the past when voters may be wanting new blood, new ideas, a fresh, young approach?

This won't be easy for Hansen. The other candidates will not step aside out of respect for his long service. It will be a tough, hard-fought contest and he'll have to scrap every step of the way. Does he really want to do this in the twilight of his political career? Can he take a loss?

On the other hand, Hansen has a persuasive story to tell. Give him a term and he'll focus like a laser on Utah's challenges without regard to image or politics or PR. He'll make tough decisions and use his federal relationships to bring money to the state and its schools.

Ready or not, the old war horse seems ready to step up to the starting line.



Democrat Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake mayor, is a political consultant. Former director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, Wilson is a friend of and a private adviser to Mayor Rocky Anderson. E-mail: tednews@hotmail.com. Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and managing editor of the Deseret News. He is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lavarrwebb@msn.com