SALT LAKE CITY — Shops at the LDS Church's City Creek Center won't open until 2012, but the progress of the massive downtown development is impossible to miss.
The Regent, a 20-story residential tower, has sprung up at a rate of one floor every six days, and people are expected to move into the 90-unit Richards Court on South Temple across from Temple Square in April, officials announced Tuesday.
"This has been a herculean effort to get to this point," said City Creek Reserve President Mark Gibbons. "The fruits of this marathon effort are beginning to show forth. … Downtown certainly has risen."
Six years after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans for the project, Salt Lake City's new skyline is finally taking shape. The nine towering cranes, meanwhile, are now eight, and the project's largest crane is expected to come down in May, Gibbons said.
The center's food court already is open for business, and a pair of Salt Lake favorites will open shop there next month. Taste of Red Iguana and Bocata, an artisan sandwich shop from the owners of Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana, will join Great Steak & Potato Co., McDonald's, Sbarro, Chang Chun and Suki Hana in the court.
While officials have declined to release financial information about the development, some estimate City Creek Reserve, a development arm of the LDS Church, will spend as much as $3 billion by the time the center opens in 2012.
Even in tough economic times, interest in the development has been high.
"It's been amazing," said Ron Loch, vice president of planning and design for Taubman Centers, the church's development partner on the project. "There's been great interest because this is such a unique product."
When the center opens in March 2012, there will be 80 retailers and a mix of restaurants spread out over the two-block development, Loch said.
About half of the 250 residential units made available to date remain on the market, Gibbons said. While condominiums overlooking Temple Square run in excess of $1 million, City Creek also will feature rental units along Main Street.
"Notwithstanding the economy, people recognize the opportunity to come into the downtown," Gibbons said. "We've had a very active sales effort."
Downtown parking also will get a boost, officials said. In-street ramps already have been opened along South Temple and West Temple.
About the time residents begin moving into Richards Court, workers will begin placing the framework for a pedestrian skybridge over Main Street.
The mid-block gallerias also will feature a waterfall, meandering creek and a glass retractable skylight that will take six minutes to open and close, Loch said.
Construction of the center's anchors, Macy's and Nordstrom, is under way, and work on a Harmons grocery store on 100 South, between State and 200 East, begins this summer.
City Creek officials Tuesday also unveiled a painting by Salt Lake artist David Meikle. "Wasatch Grandeur," a depiction of Mount Olympus at sunset, will hang at the entrance to the food court.
"It's kind of a view I've grown up with," Meikle said. "To me, this makes Salt Lake a great place to live."