The Gateway’s evolving into an 18-hour district

The Olympic Fountain at The Gateway. Image courtesy Vestar.

Vestar, the Arizona-based owners of The Gateway, have spent over two years strategically rebranding the former retail center into an 18-hour, mixed-use arts and entertainment center.  This fall the company has crossed significant milestones with new tenant announcements and the addition of dozens of new tech workers.

Last week, the company announced that Denver-based Punch Bowl Social will open its first Utah location at the former Barnes and Noble space.  The former retail pad is one of The Gateway’s largest leaseable parcel’s at 15,000 square feet and sits directly north of what is often considered the heart of the mixed-use center, the Olympic Legacy Plaza.

Officials describe Punch Bowl Social as a Dave and Busters for adults (Dave and Busters opened this spring in the former food court).  Like Dave and Busters, Punch Bowl will provide a range of arcade and table games.  But unlike Dave and Busters, the Punch Bowl Social will have a bar license, meaning patrons will be able to enjoy their drinks in the gaming areas.

Its owners expect the Punch Bowl Social to be open by June 2019.  The arcade bar is one of two bars planned for The Gateway’s north end.  Construction is underway on the Seabird Bar and Vinyl Room, a proposed bar that will occupy the space directly east of the La Barba cafe just south of the Olympic Legacy Plaza.   The Seabird Bar is by the same team that co-founded La Barba Coffe, Josh Rosenthal and Joe Evens.

This month The Gateway has added dozens of new tech workers with the openings of Recursion Pharmaceuticals and Kiln.

Recursion, a biotechnology company, relocated from Research Park at the University of Utah, to over 100,000 square feet of new office space in the former Dick’s Sporting Goods location.

Kilen, a tech-oriented coworking and startup community, moved into 25,000 square feet of space directly west of the Olympic Fountain Plaza.  Kiln’s Salt Lake space is the company’s second after opening a Lehi office this spring next to Vivint Solar’s headquarters this spring.

While happy hour specials are illegal in Utah, the new bars could incentivize the growing number of The Gateway’s tech and office workers at to linger downtown after work.

Also under construction is the state’s first SkinnyFats, an 11,000-square-foot food hall.  The Las Vegas-based-chain will feature a diverse menu offerings everything from bowls, tacos, burgers and sandwiches and a shifting roster of weekend specials in a communal setting.  The food hall will also have beer and wine stations and replaces the area previously occupied by the Urban Arts Gallery, Happy Sumo and Sunglass Hut.

In addition to the proposed bars and new office tenants, the area surrounding the Olympic Legacy Plaza will get even more crowded with the proposed conversion of the Union Pacific Depot into a boutique hotel.  Vestar hopes to start construction in 2019 on the hotel project that will include the renovation of the depot into a hotel lobby and amenity space and the construction of an eight-story addition directly west of the depot that will house most of the guest rooms and additional hotel amenities.

The west face of the proposed Union Pacific Hotel as designed by architects, HKS Inc. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.
The new home of Recursion Pharmaceuticals as seen from 400 West. Photo by Isaac Riddle.
Rendering of the SkinnyFats food hall. Image courtesy of Vestar.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at