Underdogs in the Gateway District, Centro Civico Mexicano has a new partner to rebuild on 600 West

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Since the founding of the city in 1847, the area of west Downtown has had many different names—recently, the Rio Grande, Depot, or Gateway District.

For 150 years, North Temple to 400 South, 300 West to what is now I-15 been a place where newcomers who were not part of the Mormon, Anglo majority arrived, worked, and lived along the rail corridor that connected the city to the rest of the world.

Italians, Japanese, Greeks, Mexicans, and others had little choice but to call the area home from roughly 300 West to 600 West. The few remnants that remain of old Greektown, Little Italy, and Japantown amplify their contemporary importance.

At 155 S. 600 West, today’s Centro Civico Mexicano occupies a site originally founded as a Spanish-speaking Catholic parroquia in the 1920s. It became Centro Civico Mexicano in the 1930s, and was able to buy its property in the 1950s, according to the Chair of the organization’s capital campaign. The two-story cinderblock building that currently occupies the site was constructed in 1980.

Centro Civico Mexicano, bottom center, at 155 S. 600 West. Photo by Luke Garrott.

Phase One of Centro Civico’s redevelopment was completed in 2020. Casa Milagros sits at 145 S. 600 West, offering 61 apartment homes to income-qualifying seniors.

Today, the all-volunteer civic organization looks toward the second stage of its rebuild amidst intense redevelopment on all sides. Let’s take a look at its revised Phase Two plans.

A new partnership for a shared facility

Since the first plans for redevelopment were made public in 2016, an operational partner has been added to the project: Centro de la Familia. A Utah non-profit founded in 1975 offering education programs for children and families from Head Start to high school, Centro de la Familia is looking to move offices, programs, and day care services from 525 S. 300 West.

The latest project description, now called “Centro” describes programs in workforce development, financial literacy, affordable childcare, and cultural events.

The four-story building totaling 39,000 SF above a lower level of 40 parking stalls is projected to cost $27 million. As well as significant office, classroom, and meeting space, it will include a gymnasium, not unlike the current Centro Civico, hosting events, basketball, and soccer, as well as a black-box theater.

The fundraising committee, staffed by both organizations, has hired Pathway Group, a local consulting firm known for their work with non-profits and government, to devise a fundraising strategy.

Also involved is Peter Corroon, a developer of non- and for-profit housing and former Salt Lake County Mayor (2005-13). He told Building Salt Lake that construction costs have taken a toll on the project’s pro-forma.

When asked about the $692/SF construction figure, Corroon answered that “overall construction costs have not abated, and with underground parking and a gymnasium, we need significant steel and concrete. The site also has some environmental issues that need to be remediated.”

To be sure, Casa Milagros had to tap the EPA and UDEQ to remove 4000 cubic yards of dirt for remediation before construction. The rebuild of Centro Civico Mexicano will require the same, according to Corroon.

The organization hopes to raise the grand majority of the $27 million cost before construction. So far, $2 million in firm commitments have been made, according to Corroon. Potential capital partners are, in Corroon’s words, “foundations, government, businesses and individuals. We would also consider New Market Tax Credits if available.”

In the meantime, “two of Utah’s oldest and most prestigious Hispanic non-profits,” as described in the project’s materials, will attempt to roll the ball uphill in west Downtown.

In an area rich in new residential units, but scarce in community amenities, maintaining local community-based organizations seems more important now than ever.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.