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2 Salt Lake blocks may become arts hub

SHARE 2 Salt Lake blocks may become arts hub

The image of downtown Salt Lake City as a hub for arts and culture is coming into focus.

Planning efforts are under way by the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance to transform the two downtown blocks bordered by 100 South, State Street, 200 South and West Temple into an epicenter for arts, culture and entertainment.

Downtown Alliance executive director Bob Farrington said the still-conceptual plans call for a new, 2,400-seat performing arts theater to be built in the two-block area, though a specific site has not been identified.

The new theater previously was identified in March as a signature project of Downtown Rising, the joint vision of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance for downtown planning and redevelopment.

Downtown Alliance chairman Bruce Bingham calls the creation of an arts and culture master plan "the next step to push the vision forward." Salt Lake City, its redevelopment agency and downtown property owners also are participating in the creation of the master plan.

Plans for the downtown arts blocks also include renovation of the Utah Theatre, turning it into a film center with two screening rooms and a 700-seat theater.

Capitol Theatre also would see improvements, including an expanded lobby and new space for the Ballet West Academy.

Other plans include a possible relocation for the Salt Lake Art Center; upgrades for the Museum of Utah Art and History; and new space for galleries and artists on Main Street.

The Downtown Alliance expects the arts district to get a big boost from future neighbor City Creek Center, the $1 billion-plus, mixed-use development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The development is expected to attract more than 10 million people per year when it opens in 2011.

Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, said the goal will be to have the opening of the new arts and cultural facilities coincide with that of City Creek Center.

The district also is expected to benefit from its proximity to the Salt Palace Convention Center and Temple Square.

Farrington said part of the master planning process will included looking at possible funding sources. Typically, such facilities are funded by public-private partnerships, he said.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com