“In the next two years, the population of downtown Salt Lake City will double,” says Dee Brewer, Executive Director of the Downtown Alliance. With dozens of new apartments rising, and a massive influx of residents, Salt Lake City is the seventh fastest growing city in the country, and Utah is the second fastest growing state.
Today, we are finally witnessing quite a few pedestrians in Salt Lake City! Those wise prognosticators who, 40 years ago, decided to wipe out angled parking for wide and vast sidewalks were right after all! (They were just 35 years late in their prediction coming to fruition.)
It is somewhat sad that small Lake City will very soon be a thing of the past, and all of the small, charming little shops are going by the wayside while bigness is being adopted everywhere: big malls; big shops; big buildings; big hotels, with a small spattering of cool little shops and bars.
While I’ll always miss the Salt Lake City I grew up in, it’s more effective to embrace progress and the growing major metropolitan hub that Salt Lake City is becoming, than to lament the mistakes along the way. Density creates excitement, vibrancy, economic vitality, and a creative class of individuals who can build places that can be quite special and unique.
While we have been reporting on the growing homeless population, we haven’t reported much on the growing working-class and student population downtown, so we thought we’d venture down to SLC’s artery and see who we would meet.
Who are these people? How is Salt Lake City’s creative class shaping up? How will they shape, create and build the capital city in the decades to come? The questions we asked were simple: “What do you love about Salt Lake City,” and “What do you not love?”
Ike, who recently moved to Salt Lake City from Houston, Texas, said, “People here are really nice. The food here is okay. It’s also really clean here.” But he added that Salt Lake’s food scene was “lacking,” and he wished for a “more diverse food scene … There is a lot of great Mexican food where I come from; there isn’t so much here.”
Ike’s friend Oyonan had been in Salt Lake City for a day, and said, “I love the cold, and the snow and the mountains. It’s so much nicer here.” He compared it to his hometown of Houston, where he said, “It’s muggy all the time.”
Both men said that they were surprised by the homeless population. “When I first moved here,” Oyonan said, “I was kind of shocked because there are so many homeless people here. I don’t know if it is really safe. I walk around to get some fresh air.” But Ike concluded by saying, “I think it is pretty solid here.”
A group of students from West High School were on a skating field trip at Gallivan Plaza. Most of them said they love downtown’s City Creek and Gateway Centers, but many disliked the snow and pollution caused by the inversion. One young teen said he disliked the “incredibly high interest rates that Bank of America was charging,” and added, “There are also too many gingers here!”
Interviewing a couple of young men who I would affectionately describe as punks, Blair, who has blue hair and was wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt and black leather, said that Utahns are “far too judgemental.” And he says that he is treated like he is some kind of mistake. He was recently and for no reason called a “homophobe” by a bystander.
Both young men, who reside in Glendale, said they disliked the rising crime and homeless population and sometimes felt uneasy walking around.The problems with the growing number of homeless and the escalating crime seemed to be a common sentiment.
Students who were attending Neumont University arrived in Salt Lake recently, and surprisingly, even Jean Pierre from Delaware, said that he sometimes feels afraid walking around at night due to the homeless and “some people who appear sketchy.” Nearly every Neumont University student said they love the fact that there is so much to do at night. Justin Williams said:”
Salt Lake also puts on a lot of events. Every Tuesday, I think it’s called two-wheel Tuesday, and everybody goes around on bikes. There is always activities and something going on especially on the weekends. When I’m walking home late at night on Fridays, there are always people at the bars. I seen some guy who had a robot walking around. That was just kind of fun to see.
Regarding the worst of Salt Lake City, Williams had this to say:
I’m not a very religious person and I don’t want to dog on the The Church, but the Church has a hand in a lot of things. And I feel like a lot of political things are influenced by the church ideals, and I don’t feel like that is the best route for progression and moving forward as a city and being inclusive and things like that. I’m just very individualistic. If they aren’t messing with you, why mess with them?
Still, there was a lot of love for downtown’s “ease of getting around” for those with a transit pass, which is offered to downtown students.
Jacob Church said, “For me, I like the ease of getting around with the public transport and with the mall nearby. There is so much to do here. I’m from Arizona Pinetop. It’s a mountain town.”
Just having the transport from the school is very nice, because we get free bus and free Trax. We live at 300 East.”
Another student, Jerry Eller, who has been in Salt Lake City for just a month and a half, said that, “The community has been very inviting.”
Concerning safety in Salt Lake, we also heard the opposite sentiment from two young international ladies working in Salt Lake City. Demi, from the South of Holland said, “I always feel safe walking around. I never have felt scared or afraid. It feels very safe here.”
Her Friend Faviola from Mexico said that while the homeless situation here isn’t great, “It’s not nearly as bad as it is in Mexico City, where the government does nothing to help the homeless.”
Demi said, “It seems like here, they aren’t doing nearly enough to help the homeless. There isn’t really a safety net. But where I am from, we don’t have homeless [people], really. That isn’t really an option. But they offer people too much, too many safety nets, so people [in Holland] are just choosing not to work.”
Demi and Faviola are happy that Main Street is now free from the homeless population, but they know that on 300 West, it is a completely different story.
“I was doing outreach and looking for the homeless to give away things for my work,” Demi said, “and I couldn’t believe how I couldn’t find any around here, but I found them all around the Gateway.”