Though he revealed no new information about the City Creek Center while addressing lawmakers Thursday evening, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton did assure them of the quality of the massive downtown development.
"This will be a very nice, very well-done project. The materials will be first class," said Bishop Burton, chairman of the board of directors of Property Reserve Inc., the real-estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bishop Burton's presentation on the 22-acre mixed-use development capped a daylong legislative tour of Salt Lake County that included a stop at the site. The City Creek Center will replace the Crossroads and ZCMI Center malls with an indoor-outdoor mix of retail, residential and office space.
"Some of the most sacred ground for the church ... is immediately adjacent to this project and part of the reason we are proceeding with it," Bishop Burton said. "It's important for us to see Salt Lake as a safe, clean, marvelous place to live and to visit."
The first phase of the project is deconstruction of the two-block area, followed by the building of a four-level, 5,100-stall underground parking garage. That is expected to be finished next May, Bishop Burton said, and construction of about 750 residential units will begin the following month.
A mix of condominiums, townhouses and apartments will provide a "wide variety of accommodations for people who desire to live, work, shop and worship downtown," Bishop Burton said.
The entire project, which will ultimately include more than 700,000 square feet of retail space, is scheduled for completion in mid-2011. The LDS Church will not discuss the overall cost of City Creek, which is being financed entirely with private money, though estimates have placed the price tag in excess of $1 billion.
The City Creek Center is a vital part of the larger downtown revitalization project, named "Downtown Rising." Over the next five years, a record $10 billion is expected to be invested in a 10-block radius in downtown Salt Lake City.
"Downtown is truly on the rise," said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the tour, along with its subsidiaries, the Downtown Alliance. The daylong event cost upward of $105,000.
During his remarks before dinner at the University of Utah's Rice Eccles Tower, Beattie said the tour was vital to "see what is taking place in our capital county, and certainly in our capital city."
Salt Lake City is the true heart of Utah, he said.
"While there are lots of downtowns in Utah, there is only one downtown that is everyone's downtown," Beattie said, later adding, "No matter where you live in Utah, Salt Lake City fills a role in the state."
As the long day neared an end, Utah Senate President John Valentine, R-Provo, called the tour "an inspiring and eye-opening adventure." And it certainly was for at least one Salt Lake County lawmaker, Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, who commented while walking down Main Street earlier: "I can't remember the last time I walked through downtown Salt Lake."