City to hear plans for a new public/private park atop Main Street skyscraper’s parking garage

Salt Lake City’s Downtown is getting a new public park, kind of.

When the City Council gave a private developer a historic theater in a prime part of the Downtown core, it did so with a promise of new open space.

In January, we got a first glimpse at plans for the new residential skyscraper that will rise 31 stories from its location near 144 S. Main St. We’re now getting details about how the new open space will function.

The details will finalize what became a controversial deal between the city and Hines. Critics said the city should have tried harder to save the Downtown theater, which would have cost tens of millions.

The developer got the land and historic building for free. In exchange, it promised to include with its new building open space and a public walkway. It also promised to include 40 out of 400 new apartments at rates affordable to those making between 60-80% median income (or up to $44,800 per year for a single person).

The park won’t be public, but it will be open for the public to use depending on unknown regulations Hines will put in place for things like hours of operation.

What’s clear now is that anyone who wants to use the park will have to work for it. Visitors may have to climb three flights of stairs to crest the parking garage and visit what is being called Pantages Park (an homage to the theater, opened in 1918, which will be demolished).

It had been unclear whether the park would be owned and operated by the city or the building owner once built. The city says it doesn’t have the money to add and maintain a new park Downtown, saying it would instead focus on other parks in the city. 

It also cited unspecific “legal and logistical” problems with adding a park on a parking garage.

But the publicly accessible private land would be a welcome addition Downtown, the city wrote.

“The RDA and Public Lands agree that the Project’s open space, both the midblock walkway and park space, will provide numerous benefits to the City from a design, sustainability, and civic standpoint,” the city wrote.

After presenting at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Hines will have met its requirements as part of the deal with the city.

It will mark defeat for people who advocated against the deal and in favor of saving and restoring the Downtown theater.

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.