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More than a Prayer: Salt Lake’s City Creek Inspires Lofty Expectations

Friday, March 23, 2012

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Mega-sized retail mall developments in urban city centers may seem to be an endangered species in the current, post-recessionary business climate, but Salt Lake City is betting that it will beat the odds with the giant new City Creek Center.

 Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution

 Tnemec Company

The restored cast iron façade of the old Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, founded by Brigham Young and now part of the façade of the Macy’s store in City Creek Center, Salt Lake City.

The project would appear to have more than just a prayer in its hopes for success, and not just because the Mormon church has a major financial stake in the development. The design represents “a sustainably designed, walkable urban community of residences, offices and retail stores” spanning 23 acres and three city blocks in the heart of Salt Lake City, says global architecture and design firm Callison. The firm provided architectural planning and design for the retail and residential rental components of the mixed-use development.

City Creek Center opened last week amid great expectations for an economic renaissance for downtown Salt Lake. The center’s site encompasses properties formerly occupied by two aging retail malls that had long been in decline, having lost ground and stores to the nearby Gateway Mall.

The centerpiece of City Creek Center—described in various reports as the only large-scale mixed-use development to open in the U.S. this year, and the biggest retail project to open since the recession of 2008-2009—is the retail center anchored by a 150,000-square-foot, three-level Macy’s store and a 125,000-square-foot Nordstrom’s.

The 700,000-square-foot mall is designed to convey an urban feel but with a dose of Rocky Mountain atmosphere mixed into the formula. After all, the Wasatch Range of the Rockies towers above the Salt Lake Valley just to the east.

City Creek

 SWA Group

Helping to provide the Rocky Mountain high feel to the development is City Creek, a waterway designed into the development that serves as a contemporary version of the snow-fed stream that flowed through the northern Salt Lake Valley when pioneering Mormon settlers arrived in the mid-1800s.

Helping to provide the Rocky Mountain high is City Creek, a waterway designed into the development that serves as a contemporary version of the snow-fed stream that flowed through the northern Salt Lake Valley when pioneering Mormon settlers arrived in the valley in the mid-1800s. The new edition of the creek, the work of SWA Group, meanders through the heart of the development, occasionally tumbling over rocky ledges in waterfalls and landscaped with native plant species. Live trout stocked in the creek complete the mountain-stream package.

Also serving as a connection to the area’s local heritage is the retention, and restoration, of the cast-iron façade of the former Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI), founded by Mormon patriarch Brigham Young in 1868. The façade, restored by Historical Arts & Castings Inc., makes up part of the west face of the Macy’s store. High-performance coatings supplied by Tnemec Company Inc. were used in the cast-iron restoration.

The developer of City Creek Center is City Creek Reserve Inc., the development division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The mall owner is Taubman Centers Inc. In addition to the 700,000-square-foot retail mail, the complex features 111 rental apartments, office space and 425 condominiums.

Besides the resurrected City Creek waterway, the development’s visual conversation pieces include the “Transcend Fountain” of dancing water, light, fire, and music, designed by WET Design, the company behind the splashy Fountain of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Links to the Salt Lake Valley Heritage

In a review of the restoration program for the Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution cast-iron façade—now a feature of the City Creek Center Macy’s store—Tnemec Company said epoxy and zinc-rich urethane primers were applied to galvanized-steel, cast-iron and other metal elements of the structure. Finish coatings, in various custom colors, were Tnemec’s Series 1072 Fluoronar, based on high-performance fluoropolymer resins.

The revival of the City Creek waterway, meanwhile, is heralded by SWA Group as the creation of the “largest flowing watercourse of its kind built on-structure in the U.S.”

 Callison video


This video from the architecture firm Callison describes the firm’s work on the City Creek Center project.

“City Creek is one of the most technical and dynamic projects undertaken by SWA in our 50-year history, and will make City Creek Center and downtown Salt Lake City a destination-community unlike any other in the U.S.,” said Rene Bihan, principal of SWA.

“Residents, retailers and office tenants have sought out proximity and access to this unique amenity, whether as a store-front overlooking the creek or to walk along the trickling waterway.”

City Creek begins at the northeast corner of City Creek Center and meanders in an S-pattern across the property, ending at the southwest end. For much of its course, the creek is flanked by landscaped pedestrian promenades, walkable retail shops and water features, including three waterfalls. The Regent Court waterfall, the largest of the features, includes a 17-foot cascade of 2,500 gallons per minute over native local boulders of up to 14 tons, brought in from nearby sources.

While City Creek has long flowed underground below downtown for flood-control reasons, the “new” City Creek designed by SWA recreates the indigenous streambed. Four distinct but adjoining sections of the creek create a sense of continuous watercourse: a pond with live trout, lush plantings of native material and an interactive fountain in which children can play. Some 200 rainbow and cutthroat trout were introduced to the creek for viewing, if not angling.

Ross Nadeau, SWA principal, said the work of local stone masons “sets a new standard in craftsmanship of re-created rock formations.” Outside the Lines and Kepco+ used raw material from Utah’s Brown’s Canyon, located near Park City. Some 600 boulders were used for the creek, promenade seating areas and other features.

SWA Group is an international landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm with offices in Sausalito, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and San Francisco, Calif.; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Shanghai, China; and the United Arab Emirates.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Callison; Commercial Buildings; Fluoropolymer; Tnemec

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