Thursday, October 16, 2008

Break a Leg!

[Downtown (Sorta) Rising] It's always great when someone rolls out the red carpet here on our decaying end of Main Street. So when Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's office e-mailed City Weekly the invite to the announcement celebration of the Downtown Performance Center at 135 S. Main St., I ambled up this afternoon to check it out.

Careful readers will recall that Becker put his older brother Bill (who moved from the East Coast to Park City seven years ago) in charge of finding suitable space for a downtown, Broadway-style theater. Never mind that we already have The Capitol, Abravanel Hall and the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall within hollerin' distance. Also, Bill Becker and his team's search was in direct competition with the city of Sandy and its mayor, Tom Dolan. The city to the south wants its own big-ass theater, you may recall.

(Dolan and his posse didn't make it to the event today.)

Anyway, the DPC will take up space from Main Street straight through the block to Regent Street. It will be housed in the old NAC office building, where people once sold ads for The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. For all of you who remember with fondness the whirring of the NAC printing presses, the smell of ink late at night on Regent Street and the romance of watching thousands of newspaper pages churning through the presses, get over it. What this city desperately needs is another theater and more performances of Les Miz and The Lion King.

The city, through its Redevelopment Agency, is negotiating with the LDS Church for the land. The estimated cost of the entire project is $81.5 million. The mayor hopes to pay for the building through sales tax revenue expected to skyrocket once the Mormon Church-owned City Creek Center opens for business in about two years.

LDS Church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton attended the party, and like all the other males on the all-male speakers' podium, he was very proud. "In my lexicon," he said, "this is a chocolate chip cookie day." Sweet.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say there are some bitter developers around town who couldn't pull enough weight to sell their property to the city. Developer Rick Howa, owner of the crumbling Utah Theater, which stands across the street from the DPC site, grumbled to the Tribune on Wednesday "God, I miss Rocky Anderson." Howa was an early and financially generous supporter of Becker's bid for mayor. How's that working out Rick?

When I ran into another downtown property owner standing near the finger-sandwich line, I asked him, "With all the various developers vying for this thing, how is it this dank old space got picked?" He rolled his eyes and answered: "The church, RDA, the church, RDA, the church, RDA, the church." (Holly Mullen)


  1. Thus far, I'm not terribly impressed with Becker. I voted for the guy - wanted him for Mayor from the outset - but this ridiculous drive for a new playhouse is a foolish waste of money. Other than that, Becker just puts me to sleep.

  2. Yet another opportunity for Mullen to take swings at (1) the guy who city voters preferred over Jenny Wilson in the recent mayoral election, and (2) the LDS Church.

  3. Actually, Robert Y., Rick Howa gave donations to both Jenny Wilson and Ralph Becker. Like most business magnates, he wanted to make sure both sides of his bread were buttered. That's how it's done.

    It's just that he gave MORE of his money to Becker. Judging from the way the theater space selection worked out, he didn't get his money's worth. (Come to think of it, neither did the taxpayers) Thus, Howa's comment about missing Rocky Anderson.

    BTW, it was a developer in the crowd who made the snarky comment about the LDS Church getting tapped for the bid, so you can relax.


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