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Owners of The Gateway will invest up to $100 million to improve the Salt Lake City shopping center, including construction of a 167-room hotel.

Arizona-based Vestar officials, who bought the open-air mall in February, said Monday they upped their expected investment from $30 million and noted that plans remain firmly on track to convert The Gateway into a regional food-and-beverage, entertainment and social hub.

The operator of nearly 45 malls across the West is promising to make the retail center on downtown Salt Lake City's west end a showcase of public art, unique restaurants and live events 200 days a year in a direct appeal to families and millennials. But rebranding malls takes time.

As the holiday shopping season gets underway, Vestar President David Larcher said prominent departures from Gateway's current retail lineup should be read as a positive signal that new attractions are coming.

"We'll bring new things in," Larcher said Monday, "but we've got to change some of the existing tenancy as well."

And while The Gateway continues to shift its retail mix and boost amenities, Larcher said, the mall still boasts 80 stores and eateries.

Vestar initially said it would spend $30 million on its makeover as it sought to restore foot traffic and a sense of vitality to the shopping center, which debuted in 2001 with taxpayer backing.

Director of Sales and Leasing Jenny Cushing said Monday the $30 million sum will be devoted to structural improvements at the 623,205-square-foot retail center, with $60 million going toward a boutique hotel at the historic Union Pacific Depot and $10 million for other upgrades.

"The goal," Cushing said, "is to create this urban, eclectic district, open seven days a week, the place where all things hip, social and fun will happen."

Retail spaces in The Gateway were about 75 percent full when Vestar and partners Oaktree Capital Management bought the facility from Retail Properties of America.

A key focus in their initial efforts, company officials said, has been improving mall security as Vestar works with city and law enforcement officials to lessen effects from large encampments of homeless people gathered around The Road Home's nearby shelter.

Vestar has been quiet in recent months as it overhauls parking lots, sidewalks, escalators, retail spaces and building exteriors. Mall managers even ran a lighthearted ad campaign updating customers on the work.

Cushing said Vestar expects to unveil more details about the hotel and new retailers in coming months.

Twitter: @TonySemerad

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