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Salt Lake City leaders look to clean up, develop Depot District

SALT LAKE CITY — A west-side pocket plagued by vacant and rundown warehouses, the city's Depot District could be the capital's next neighborhood to score a makeover.

The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency already owns 13 acres of land around the Salt Lake Central Station and has a major opportunity to "clean up the area and set the table for development," planners and city leaders said Tuesday.

"We need to make a place here," RDA chairman Luke Garrott said. "We're not going to be waving our magic wand and creating a mega-development here like Gateway."

Instead, it will take time — and a mix of public and private dollars — to transform the beleaguered neighborhood east of the FrontRunner transit hub into a "commuter village" that would appeal to younger tenants and "less corporate" local businesses, city officials said.

"It's probably not a retail district because it's kind of isolated," said Marilee Utter of Citiventure Associates. "(But) it can be a very cool place with a lot of appeal."

Citiventure, a Denver-based planning firm, released a report on a potential direction for the neighborhood after holding a two-day workshop in November.

While the area might not work for large-scale retail or towering buildings, a mix of coffee shops, restaurants, clubs and artist studios would attract young tenants, according to the report.

Some have expressed interest in building student housing there, Utter said.

The report also called for increased office space and named the Salt Lake Chamber and a World Trade Center as possible users for an "innovation center."

The district already provides ample public transit options, including commuter and light rail. Planners suggested connecting a downtown streetcar line to Central Station.

While city leaders had hoped the neighborhood might be the spot of a year-round public market, Utter said limited access would hurt the chances for success.

"This probably isn't the location," she said.

Planners said developing the neighborhood would include breaking up the city's large blocks and improving pedestrian pathways.

e-mail: afalk@desnews.com