"This is the process that they have to go through in order for the city to approve the actual work to be done," said Larry Butcher, development review supervisor for Salt Lake City Building Services. "This is an indicator that Microsoft has developed plans to pursue construction at this location."
The application usually expires in 180 days, although extensions can be granted. The city has not reviewed the permit yet, Butcher said, adding that applicants don't always go through with construction.
City Creek's general manager, Linda Wardell, declined to confirm whether Microsoft would be opening a location. "That's not a store that we have announced," she said Wednesday.
Microsoft officials also declined to confirm any specific plans. "While we're exploring several locations for future Microsoft Stores, we have no specific new store locations to share at this time," a spokesperson said by email.
If Microsoft does build a store in City Creek, it will be the second major electronics retailer destined for the new center, which is part of a larger project includes retail stores, restaurants and residential units. The property is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Last month, Jake Boyer, president and CEO of The Boyer Co., which owns The Gateway mall in Salt Lake City, said the Apple Store in his shopping center would be leaving for City Creek by the end of the year. Apple, which would be breaking a 10-year lease to do so, has not confirmed the move.
If Microsoft does build a store at City Creek, it could well be part of a larger strategy a majority of Microsoft's 29 retail stores are in the same mall or shopping center as an Apple Store.
The Microsoft Store also takes after Apple in its retail design, using a simple, minimalist look. In its locations, Microsoft sells software, such as its flagship Windows operating system, as well as PCs and other hardware from third parties. The newest version of Windows, called Windows 8, is expected to ship sometime before the end of the year.
The stores also will be the exclusive locations to buy Microsoft's newly announced computer tablet, Surface, which is expected to be released around the holidays. The mobile device is designed to compete with Apple's iPad and includes a touchscreen, as well as a magnetic cover that has a built-in keyboard.
Microsoft plans to have a total of 44 stores in North America by the middle of next year. Microsoft's chief operating officer, Kevin Turner, also announced last week that it will be opening smaller "pop-up" stores around the country, retail locations that have short-term leases.
Apple has more than 360 retail locations around the world.