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SLC Council votes to endorse downtown redevelopment plan with tax increase

Jul 9, 2024, 7:15 PM | Updated: Jul 10, 2024, 11:25 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse a proposed downtown redevelopment zone, which would require a 0.5% city sales tax increase to help fund it.

The proposal includes renovating the Delta Center to accommodate the Utah Jazz and the recently acquired NHL Hockey team. The plan was put forth by the Smith Entertainment Group. That group, chaired by Ryan Smith, applied to the city to create the project around the Delta Center, as outlined in SB272, passed during the 2024 session of the Utah Legislature.

The participation agreement between Salt Lake City and Smith Entertainment Group outlines how up to $900 million collected over 30 years from the city sales tax increase will be spent on the revitalization.

Smith Entertainment Group has agreed to a host of conditions including a Delta Center ticket fee, developing the workforce, maintaining gathering spaces, spending $5 million on revitalizing Japantown, and, starting next July, keeping all home games of both the Utah Jazz and Utah Hockey Club at the Delta Center.

The agreement also includes creating a public safety space within the revitalization zone and allocating $5 million toward public art.

Smith Entertainment Group estimates it will spend $525 million of the tax increase for the Delta Center remodel and $375 million for other improvements of the downtown-area district. It estimates the plan will generate approximately $1.2 billion in revenue over the life of the agreement.

“I’m really excited to support the capital city revitalization zone,” said Salt Lake City Council member Eva Lopez Chavez, during Tuesday’s meeting. She said it will support downtown in achieving goals of walkability.

The council members expressed their belief that the agreement will reconnect two chunks of downtown currently broken up by the Salt Palace, and allow the area to thrive.

“This is the first step, a transformational step, but it’s opening the city, it’s improving flow or people and commerce through the city,” said Council member Dan Dugan.

Council members addressed concerns and angry comments they say they’ve received over the agreement. The council explained working tirelessly in the background on negotiations and terms, saying it wasn’t a decision they took lightly.

“I truly believe the proposed agreement is a good deal for Salt Lake City, even though we didn’t necessarily, it doesn’t necessarily address every point and every wish that the public expressed,” said Council member Chris Wharton.

Many members of the Japanese American community attended Tuesday’s meeting, showing support for Japantown. The agreement sets aside money for the revitalization of the area and calls for using commercially reasonable efforts to incorporate Japanese architecture and landscape elements along 100 South facades facing Japantown.

It also asks for a pedestrian connection between the revitalization district and Japantown and minimizing truck loading docks and unloading areas on 100 South — where the current Salt Palace loading docks and parking garage are located.

Jani Iwamoto, with the Japantown Community Preservation Committee and former state legislator and Salt Lake City council member, is hopeful.

“There’s some work to be done for sure,” she said. “But I feel… that there was a lot of passion and commitment to Japantown, which I appreciate.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the vote a “catalytic day” for the city.

“It’s about much more than sports and entertainment. It’s about the future of downtown,” she said, in an interview after the vote. “It’s about anchoring all of these institutions and making sure that our future is a strong one for the entire city.”

Mendenhall said this is has been a “deeply collaborative” process between Salt Lake City and Smith Entertainment Group.

“I am thrilled that this vision has now a signature in a partnership agreement and the stamp of approval from our City Council,” she said. “It’s a major step forward for Salt Lake City today.”

Mendenhall along with Mike Maughan from the Smith Entertainment Group also released a joint statement Tuesday after the vote. The statement said the unanimous vote was an important endorsement and a positive step to creating a sports, entertainment, culture and convention district.

“We are grateful for the council’s support of this vision that will create a more activated, connected, and family-friendly future for Salt Lake City,” it said.

The endorsement is a step in the process defined by recently passed legislation, on a timetable outlined by lawmakers. The council-endorsed agreement will now head to the State Revitalization Zone Committee. The committee, consisting of two members of both the Utah House and Senate and a person appointed by Gov. Spencer Cox, has 30 days to approve or reject the agreement.

If approved, it’ll land back at the city council for final approval. After final approval, the council will consider adopting the 0.5% sales tax increase and then has until the last day of 2024 to impose the tax.

Mendenhall said Tuesday the sales tax could be activated as early as Sept. 1.

The council has a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. to gather feedback on proposed zoning changes.

“This is an opportunity for the public to share their input directly with the council,” its website states. Feedback can also be submitted online. The Smith Entertainment Group also has a project website.

The document:

Salt Lake City Council transmittal regarding major terms in SLC revitalization agreement by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

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SLC Council votes to endorse downtown redevelopment plan with tax increase