I hope City Creek succeeds. I hope it generates economic growth, and I hope it adds to the “urban” feel of Salt Lake City — as KSL’s many pseudo-journalistic, conflict-of-interest-laden stories keep saying it will. And by all accounts, the shopping center had a fantastic opening weekend.
But meaningful long-term success is far from guaranteed and, as I mentioned in this post, simply wanting something doesn’t mean it will come to pass. Moreover, a rigourus, critical discussion of a city is a sign of affection toward it.
To that end, Fox 13’s Ben Winslow recently produced this piece that raises questions about potential dissonance between expectations and outcomes at City Creek.
Among the interesting points Winslow brings up is the fact that City Creek and the Gateway will probably compete against each other — a fact mentioned in this still-too-soft piece by KSL — and that both projects face stiff competition from the surrounding suburbs.
City Weekly has also discussed City Creek, including in this piece wherein Ted Scheffler comments on the disappointing lack of local food. He ultimately concludes that the new mall has “no soul.” Coincidentally, that’s the sort of critque often leveled against run-of-the-mill suburban malls.
Relatedly, The Atlantic Cities recently ran a piece pointing out how Seattle has created a lively downtown by taking more or less the opposite approach.
As Talton explains, Seattle’s downtown went through some rocky times in the 1960s and 1970s. “Seattle nearly killed its downtown with suburban malls and Le Corbusier-style arid building,” he tells us via email.
City Creek is denser than modernist planning schemes and includes mixed use structures. But it’s still a mall and a few sentences later that same article notes that
Now Seattle has to keep the momentum going while continuing to preserve historic buildings and street life.
What is City Creek doing for surrounding street life and historic buildings? How will it fit in with the surrounding urban environment? What is the impact of City Creek on downtown infrastructure, particularly bike and pedestrian pathways? These are far more important questions than whether or not the development “feels urban” or how much people like shopping at Brooks Brothers.
Furthermore, even disregarding these questions and the historical precedent of Seattle, how will City Creek avert the problems mentioned in this Gawker post reporting on the general decline and failure of malls throughout the U.S.?
I’ve yet to visit City Creek and as I mention above, I hope it works. But if that is going to happen, a critical discussion can only be a good thing. No, scratch that; a critical discussion is essential. Furthermore, a less fawning appoach will help neighboring cities — like Provo — learn from successes an avoid mistakes.