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About Utah: Life has been sucked out of downtown

In a recent newspaper article, Ralph Becker, who is running for mayor of Salt Lake City, called The Gateway "a big mistake."

Becker said that the open-air shopping mall and business/residential complex on the west side "sucked the life out of this city."

Back came a rebuttal, printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, by Roger Boyer.

That's the same Roger Boyer who is chairman of the Boyer Co., which developed The Gateway.

There's a news flash: Developer Defends Development.

So what's next? The president of Exxon sticks up for SUVs? Andrei Kirilenko's agent says his client really is a team player? The current Mrs. Giuliani lectures on her husband's value as a spouse?

Boyer argues that The Gateway isn't a big mistake because it is successful, makes money and pays taxes.

But Becker didn't say The Gateway doesn't make money or pay taxes.

He said it sucked the life out of this city.

Which it did.

Remember the downtown formerly known as Salt Lake City?

It is now either being torn down or should be.

City gridlock these days is when the big trucks hauling out the debris run into the big trucks coming back from the landfill.

Even the skaters have fled.

Calling Salt Lake City a big hole is now grammatically correct.

The Boyer Co., of course, didn't decay downtown in the first place. How that happened is a whole 'nother discussion.

It just hastened its demise.

As soon as The Gateway was born, the Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center — remember them? — shriveled up and died, as did many other businesses.

Had the life sucked right out of them.

Becker was only echoing what anyone who has spent any time downtown knows.

I've been a daytime downtown resident since the day the Deseret News hired me to cover high school sports in 1973. I am not speaking from hearsay when I say downtown Salt Lake used to have the feel of a real city.

There were times when you could leave the office for a burger without a hard hat.

Those were the days

Adding irony to Boyer's rebuttal is the fact that it was printed in the Tribune, a newspaper that joined the other refugees streaming out of downtown and relocated at The Gateway.

The Trib got sucked right out of the Tribune Building.

Don't get me wrong. I have been to The Gateway and think in many respects it's a classy, cool place.

But it's no downtown.

Downtown is the crane to the east.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.