clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

New York Times looks at church's role in Salt Lake project

For the second time in nine months, the New York Times is featuring

downtown Salt Lake City's redevelopment that the newspaper says is

"prompting a new debate inside the church community and out over where

the line between culture and economics should be drawn."The first story last May was much more a real estate report. This time, the storytook a harder look at the LDS Church and its potential impact on the development.The story was picked up by several news organizations around the U.S. Kirk Johnson writes:"Some

residents say the church, by opening its checkbook in a recession,

rescued the city when times got tough. The 1,800 construction jobs at

City Creek alone have provided a big local economic cushion. Completion

of the project — 20 acres of retail shops and residential towers — is

scheduled for 2012...Other people say that if the new heart of downtown

has a strong church flavor, Salt Lake, which has become more diverse in

recent years — could veer back toward its roots, for better or worse.

About half of city residents are Mormon, according to many estimates,

and if many, or most, of the roughly 700 apartment units at City Creek

were occupied by Mormon families, the city could have a dramatic new

feel."The New York Times did a much better job balancing the

story than a November episode of Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, which

was filled with speculation about how the church might restrict activity in the new development.In November, the Mormon Media Observer wrote:

"Lucky Severson, a broadcast journalist who once worked in the Salt

Lake market, interviewed some thinkers and planners about how the LDS

Church-owned project might transform downtown. In particular, some are

worried an influx of Mormons will change the downtown culture. Some of

the statements border on fear-mongering."Unlike the NewsWeekly

report, the Times included a response from the Bishop H. David Burton,

which included the fact that alcohol will likely be permitted in

private establishments in City Creek Center."'There will be no

evidence of the church within those blocks,' said H. David Burton, a

former corporate executive who oversees the church's business interests

as the presiding bishop. Mr. Burton said the civic spaces inside City

Creek would be private property, but "with all the attributes of a

public venue'.""Alcohol, for example — always a cultural

flashpoint because of the church's teachings to avoid it — will

probably be allowed in City Creek, Mr. Burton said, under special

contracts that will allow a restaurant wanting a liquor license to buy

the underlying property.

That would keep the church from being in the liquor business or from

benefiting from liquor sales while still allowing sale and consumption

on the premises."Of interest, the report also documents how the

church intentionally helped to stimulate the local economy through the

project, a throwback to the introduction of the church's welfare

program to help the destitute in hard times.