The LDS Church's development arm, responsible for revamping the Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center malls on Main Street, backed out of a tentatively scheduled public meeting last week, opting instead to update their plans to select Salt Lake City Council members in private.
At the scheduled public meeting, Property Reserve Inc. was supposed to publicly apprise the city about the progress of its estimated $500 million plan to redevelop the malls, construct new housing and office space and move two college campus extensions downtown.
Instead, PRI called off the April 20 meeting, and H. David Burton, the church's presiding bishop, privately updated City Council chairwoman Jill Remington Love and Redevelopment Agency Board chairman Eric Jergensen, who came away from the briefing upbeat.
The public meeting was originally scheduled after PRI pledged to keep the city abreast of their quarterly progress as a courtesy for the council's October decision to make Main Street the only place where high-fashion department stores could locate. The cancelation raised the eyebrows of some, who wondered if PRI scrubbed the public meeting because they hadn't made significant progress.
But Love and Jergensen debunked those rumors Wednesday, saying they were satisfied with the development, even if they won't divulge much.
"I've been one of the most vocal critics publicly, and I left pretty satisfied that they were on track," Love said.
The councilwoman said they were asked not to share the information with the public or other City Council members. Even Mayor Rocky Anderson, whose office includes the city's Department of Economic Development, wasn't involved in any updates, according to his spokeswoman, Deeda Seed.
"They told us to be selective with what we shared with the entire council," Love said. "That's how sensitive this is."
PRI is in close negotiations with retailers interested in locating in the new mall project, Love and Jergensen said. The privacy was requested because PRI didn't want to spoil those negotiations, the pair said. The council acquiesced and didn't demand a public briefing for fear of hurting PRI's progress, they said.
"This is not unusual in transactions like these," Jergensen said. "There is a particular time when negotiations like these are very sensitive."Jergensen said by next quarter's update he expects the church will have some information to make public.
Councilwoman Nancy Saxton said the city should be satisfied with private meetings because the church, as a private developer, really isn't required to give the city any update. While Love expects the mall redevelopment will be "a process of several years of filling in all the holes," she added that when PRI is "ready to make an announcement it will be pretty major."
Love said PRI is still planning new housing and office components in their mall designs and is moving forward with efforts to bring a Brigham Young University extension and the LDS Business College to South Temple between the two Main Street malls and The Gateway.
Despite including Jergensen in the meeting, Love said PRI isn't asking for any RDA funds for their project. Instead, Love said, the church reiterated that it has never asked the city for any special deals, loans or other incentives.
That said, Love and Jergensen did inform PRI officials of the RDA funds available for mall tenants who might have to temporarily relocate away from the mall during construction. Saxton said the city may want to consider offering free grants similar to the ones given though the RDA's Main Street Grant Program to mall business that need to relocate downtown during construction.
Most downtown observers say the LDS Church's development will be the chief component in the city's sluggish effort to revitalize its downtown Main Street area.