Architecture & Design | Visual Arts

Up and Down The Creek: Stephen Goldsmith on City Creek

I was downtown recently when my cell phone rang. When asked where I was, I said “City Creek,” and the caller assumed I was on a hike in the canyon, a place I love and visit often. But I was neither in City Creek Canyon nor on Main Street, but rather above it in City Creek Center’s air-conditioned connecting bridge, decorated inside with old photographs and maps of our historic downtown, a downtown with four generations of my family’s life and livelihood etched into its streets . . .

In the May 2012 edition of 15 Bytes,  Stephen Goldsmith takes a look at the new City Creek project and worries “we are burying our heads about the importance of authenticity.”

8 replies »

  1. Stephen Goldsmith is right, as usual. His incisive views on the problems inherent in Salt Lake’s latest attempt to resuscitate those two church-owned blocks are easily the most honest and unarguable I’ve heard or read. Remember when this project was being touted as the thing that was going to revive downtown? Instead, it was obviously designed to be a big energy-suck that will have the opposite effect. (Appropriately enough, City Creek’s big-photo ad campaign looks like the vampire cast of the Twilight movies.) Recently, a friend of mine was excitedly describing the new mall (which is all it is) and exclaimed “You can’t believe you’re in Salt Lake!” And that’s exactly the problem, as those old photographs Stephen referred to vividly illustrate. Now, one can only look at those old images of a bustling Main Street that grew organically with local businesses and compare them with City Creek Center’s dazzling but deadly offerings of national chain stores and try not to weep at what we’ve lost. Authenticity, exactly.

  2. Why is it that some people have such a hard time understanding that we are a different people now. This IS the 21st Century. Things aren’t going to be just like the “good ol’ days” gone by. Cultures change, people change and so has, and will, Salt Lake City. Well-written articles by backward-thinking “city planners” are certainly not going to help. Yet, now that City Creek is finally done and open, that same whining won’t help anyone. Come on folks, our downtown is resurrecting…get happy about it! Give it a freaking chance! Quit stewing over the fact that you didn’t get your way. CCC will have the “soul” that WE give it! So now, let’s play nicely.

  3. So, Nathan, you argue that the culture and people of Salt Lake have changed to embrace a corporate and commercialist veneer of “soul”? How much “soul” do you really think we can give Macy’s? McDonalds? H&M? How much “soul” can we give CCC with its profuse reminders that its visitors (read “customers”) are on private property? How much “soul” is allowed for within its list of rules and regulations?
    Sadly, I think you’re mostly correct in pointing out that, for the most part, our culture at large has readily embraced these consumerist values. But, as you say, “Cultures change, people change and so has, and will, Salt Lake City.”
    Any resurrection brought about by any mall, shopping center, or other palace of corporate retail, no matter how “integrated”, will be a shallow and superficial resurrection (not to mention short lived, as the many floundering malls around the nation can attest to). Why is it that some people have such a hard time thinking critically and reading the writing on the wall?

  4. When so many cities have neglected downtowns and so many parts of ours are vacant, I’m glad that the City Creek development has gone through, despite whatever drawbacks it might have.
    I don’t understand the fuss about private property and commercialism. That block already was private property. All they’ve done is improved it. They haven’t restricted public discourse in any spaces where people were having protests or sit ins a year or two ago. And as for commercialism, what do you think all those people were doing on Main Street in the old photographs? They were shopping. You may differ about what shops should be there, but it is still commercialism.
    The article’s point about the sky bridge I think is more valid because it does encroach on what has been public space and changes the way we interact on Main Street. Personally, I think if you want to revitalize Main Street you should make it a pedestrian street, from the temple down to city hall. Lots of great cities have an old avenue that is shut off to cars and becomes the heart of the city (as long as it is done in the heart of the city and not on an island, like Gateway).

  5. As Nathan says, this is the 21st century. I am old enough to remember crowded streets where men wore suits and ties and hats and no woman would be seen not in a nice dress, hat and, usually, gloves. The reason cities changed is that the people changed. You just will not see that anymore (perhaps regretfully). Stephen Goldsmith’s article is more a reminiscence of days gone by, and a rather romanticized memoir of how it was back then. Talking about street democracy and putting down the commercialization of the city ignores the facts of the last 50 years. The reason the city changed was that the people did not want the old ways of doing business, and the cities had to adapt to that. As for the businesses that are there, look at the old pictures and you will see many large box stores that were nation-wide. It is true many small stores and businesses are gone but that is the result of economics. They could not compete with the large stores and street democrats voted with their money that this is what they want.
    As for sky bridges, I have wondered why they were not used more and now I know. Perhaps Stephen enjoys walking on blistering hot concrete in 103 degree temperatures (and the thermal shock of going in and out of air conditioned stores), or getting soaked by rain, or slogging through snow, but most people do not. Not to mention trying to cross streets where you take your life in your hands due to cars running red lights and speeding. I would have many such pathways and if he wants to enjoy all the wonders of nature, he can go out to his canyons and hike.

  6. I think that Steve has some legitimate points about the place. It is very concrete and sterile and it is an affront to think that the ‘creek’ is normal. But, it is still a bit better than the big pipe under the street that we had before the 1983 flood.
    Does the place work? Not for me. But it may for others and I hope it evolves over time as so many of the upscale places go and are replaced with other more local businesses. Will that happen? It will be up to those younger than me and it will be their place. And, my apologies, Steve, I like open public bridges. It is fun to have an elevated view of the world, as if a river flows below.

  7. Those of us who can remember the vitality of Main Street a half century ago will share Steve goldsmith’s disappointment with the constructed, artificial mall we now have. His critique is astute and timely, severe words that need to be spoken. Whose emperor and what new clothes must we now admire.

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