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Once mediocre Regent Street now a downtown destination

SALT LAKE CITY — A few short years ago, Regent Street in downtown Salt Lake City was little more than an access road for business deliveries and the entrance to a multi-level parking garage for a few nearby companies.

Today, the once off-the-beaten-path thoroughfare is now one of the primary connectors between Gallivan Center to the south and City Creek Center on the north, placing it right in the middle of downtown's main entertainment district.

When the much-heralded George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater opened in the spring of last year, civic leaders hoped it would be the next jewel in the crown of the downtown business and entertainment hub — complementing City Creek Center, the 111 Main and 222 Main office towers, along with the new Broadway-style theater venue.

Thus far, the Eccles Theater has not disappointed, exceeding expectations and helping to generate residual prosperity for some its nearby roadways, such as Regent Street, located between Main and State streets and between 100 and 200 South.

Having been revamped into a pedestrian-friendly connector for visitors and typical "weekday warriors" who desire easier access to those business district destinations, Regent Street is set to become one of the latest success stories of the city's revitalization efforts, said Paul Kuhn, executive chef and co-owner of Last Course Dessert Studio, 115 Regent Street.

"It's a great location as far as foot traffic," he said. "We're already seeing great results from folks going to the shows at the Eccles Theater and people coming in at lunch."

Pedestrians walk through McCarthy Plaza by Regent Street in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
Pedestrians walk through McCarthy Plaza by Regent Street in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Open since January, the downtown location is one of two in the valley along with a Draper store, he noted. So far, he has been pleased with the way business has gone and was undeterred by being among the initial retailers to open shop on the newly renovated street, he said.

"We're confident with what we have and we know the area," Kuhn explained.

He and his partner are familiar with the local restaurant and catering market, so they considered this foray to be one of great potential opportunity.

"I liked what (the city) did with (downtown). It was a good look," he said. "They're just trying to make it a nice area. We're very pleased with the look and approach they're taking and what we see in the future."

Kuhn said Regent Street has space to grow and is slated to add more new dining options in the coming months. It could become one of the top family gathering spots in downtown, he said.

"It'll be a food destination. We're blazing the trail," he said. "With the tie-in to the Gallivan Center, which has always been a festive area, and the open air of City Creek mall, as events evolve through there over the next few years, it's going to be one of the more happening places there is."

Jordan Gaddis and Mike Phillips eat lunch at Pretty Bird on Regent Street in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
Jordan Gaddis and Mike Phillips eat lunch at Pretty Bird on Regent Street in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Regent Street reconstruction project was born of many public meetings discussing the theater, said Danny Walz, chief operating officer of the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City.

The street’s location directly behind the forthcoming theater simply could not be ignored as an essential piece of the Block 70 puzzle, he said. During the community outreach segment of the theater’s planning process, more than half of the public comments indicated a desire to use the theater project to reactivate Regent Street.

"Since the early 2000s when the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News relocated, Regent Street had lost its sense of purpose," Walz said. "The construction of the theater afforded it a second chance, and the RDA committed itself to utilizing this key corridor between Gallivan Center and City Creek to its fullest extent."

He added, "With a design team in place, the reconstruction project moved in tandem with the construction of the theater and 111 Main, incorporating important elements of place making, economics, landscape architecture, history, graphic design, and urban planning."

Noting the project is nearing the completion stage, Walz said the last piece of the revitalization effort is currently in the works.

"The commission of a public art installation for Regent Street is the final element of the reconstruction, and is already underway,” he said. The city is currently in the final stages of its artist selection process for the public art piece.

More information will be released upon the final execution of the agreement, which should be within the next couple of weeks, according to Amanda Holty, the Redevelopment Agency's communications and outreach manager. The agency and the Salt Lake City Arts Council are projecting a completion date of mid-2019 for the installation, she said.