It’s been six years since the buildings on the southwest corner of 1100 East and 2100 South were demolished. After the displaced stores closed, the remaining shopkeepers on the block struggled to assure clients that they were still open for business.
At the same time that construction began on that corner, other re-development projects set off three years of street closures, traffic jams and obstructed sidewalks. Local businesses tried in vain to keep construction workers from using scarce customer parking while merchants endured constant complaints from clients who vowed never to come to Sugar House again.
Survivors looked forward to the pay-off – a revitalized business district with modern apartment buildings and trendy new restaurants that would lure old customers back and draw new ones in to discover what Sugar House has to offer.
Alisyn Wallace has worked for 25 years at Smith Crown Co., her family’s business. She has seen major changes in Sugar House before, and thinks the latest ones are positive for a little store. The old buildings were quaint, she said, but dilapidated. The new development raised the tone of the district. Wallace predicts that with several upscale residential projects opening soon, a more affluent clientele will discover the specialty shops in Sugar House and appreciate their distinctive offerings.
Tyson Emery, manager of All About Coins, is excited to see the end of construction, and thought the new condos and the S-Line streetcar would bring more people into the area. Alpine Fireplace manager Mark LeGrande agreed, and said that the cool, modern look of the district will attract younger people to congregate there. “It’s generating a lot of foot traffic in the area, walk-ins. It’s bustling, and that’s good for business.”
Of course, owners of the older, established businesses have seen all this before. Jill Haskell’s Sugar House Furniture has been on Highland Dr. since 1985, and she has a seasoned perspective about how re-development affects local businesses. Haskell was excited to see some of the construction projects end, notably the Parley’s Trail crossing at 13th East and the Vue at Sugar House Crossing. She was happy to see Wasatch Brew Pub and the Mellow Mushroom open.
“Some people have avoided the area for the last few years,” she said, “but now, with the parking structure open, people are coming back.” She added that visitors arrive by car and then walk around the district, which is good for retail stores like hers.
However, Haskell is concerned that local merchants won’t get much relief from ongoing development. Liberty Village Apartments on McClelland, the Monument Plaza, and Wilmington Gardens east of Highland are still under construction. Access to public parking is still obstructed by construction vehicles.
Coming soon is phase two of developer Craig Mecham’s Sugar House Crossing project. The Legacy Village Senior Living facility on Wilmington is also likely to start soon, to be followed by the next wave of redevelopment of the Sugar House Center between Highland Drive and 1300 East. In addition is the prospect of utility work under Highland Drive and extending the S-Line up Highland to 2100 South.
One can only guess how small shops and offices will be affected by the next stage of development, or which will be displaced. Local stores and new businesses often can’t afford high rents and longer leases that come with renovation of a commercial district. What is certain, however, is that the changes to Sugar House won’t be finished anytime soon.