Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has been granted his wish for a slice of money for Pioneer Park renovations.

The City Council on Tuesday night grappled with whether to fund improvements in Liberty Park, as an advisory board suggested, or Pioneer Park, which Anderson preferred.

Council members talked about how to distribute money to dozens of city building projects during the coming year as part of their annual process to decide on capital improvement projects. The highest-profile question in that discussion this time, though, is what to do with Pioneer Park.

When Anderson prepared his recommendations for the capital improvements budget, he requested $400,000 from the City Council. But a few weeks ago, Anderson requested that the council move a $500,000 chunk that the capital improvement advisory board suggested for renovations to the children's garden in Liberty Park. (The change came after the city learned it did not receive a federal grant for Pioneer Park improvements.)

But the mayor got his original $400,000 request for Pioneer Park after a protracted discussion with the council about which Pioneer Park renovations were worth spending money on now and which could wait.

"This isn't about programming," Anderson said about adding elements to Pioneer Park that would encourage concerts, plays and other public events.

"It's about the kind of place and what it can offer every day. Programming a place with a bunch of grass and trees isn't the answer. (It's) building amenities that are going to draw people in there day after day."

The council gave $600,000 to park renovations last year, and Public Services Director Rick Graham said construction of the first set of improvements is scheduled to begin when the farmer's market season ends in mid-October.

Those improvements include perimeter sidewalks, corner entry plazas, a dog park, bike racks and infrastructure improvements. Graham matched the council's $600,000 last year with $500,000 in federal grant money for the $1.1 million price tag for the first renovations.

Graham and Anderson had three stages of renovations slated, including additions of a cafe, great lawn and restrooms in stage two, and volleyball courts, a historical playground, bell tower and gardens in the third stage.

Council members said Tuesday they intended the $400,000 they allocated to go toward moving additional infrastructure improvements from Graham's stage two plans and compressing them into stage one. Graham said the move would help save money in the long run.

The council's decision came after pointed questions from Councilwoman Nancy Saxton, whose district includes Pioneer Park and who has opposed Anderson's plans for the 10-acre plot.

Saxton was interested in "taking the park as it is and finding ways to program it as it is," she said. "Change the image of the park — there are other ways to do it a lot less expensively."

During the process of deciding on the capital improvements budget, council members negotiate with each other and city staff over how much money to give to specific projects to replace sidewalk cuts, street lights, bond debt payments and park improvements.

The council took an informal vote to reach its decision Tuesday and is to finalize that decision Oct. 3.

In other business Tuesday night, the City Council agreed to change the timing for the developer of the Emigration Court apartments and condominiums on 500 East between 300 and 400 South. The developer, Salt Lake Apartment Builders LLC, had planned to build an apartment building in stage two of the project. The council agreed to let Salt Lake Apartment Builders move a condo section of the development from stage three to stage two and postpone the apartment section until late 2008.


E-mail: kswinyard@desnews.com