Although adding new stores to fill empty storefronts doesn't appear imminent, The Gateway is endeavoring to remake itself, starting with a $2 million renovation at the downtown Salt Lake City mall.
This comes as the one-year anniversary approaches for the opening of nearby City Creek Center, which during the past 12 months has landed more than a dozen high-profile retail tenants that used to call The Gateway home.
The renovation project is focusing on ambiance and on the 12-year-old Gateway becoming more of a community gathering spot, said General Manager Scott Bennett.
By early summer, shoppers will see more shaded seating areas, surrounded by flowering plants. More than 220 seats will be added to nearly 150 existing spots designed to allow shoppers to rest and relax. In colder months, the areas will be warmed by fire pits.
"The downtown will continue to thrive," Bennett said of the two malls operating within several blocks of each other. "Here, we'll be the shopping, dining and entertainment district."
Rather than kick dirt on The Gateway, several commercial real estate specialists said they thought it was following a prudent course, given City Creek Center's relative success.
Can the two coexist? "Without hesitation, absolutely," said Brandon Fugal, executive vice president with Coldwell Banker Commercial. "With the renovation, The Gateway will be well-positioned to succeed.
He echoed others in saying that The Gateway's high concentration of restaurants complements its entertainment focus, which differentiates it from City Creek Center.
The Gateway, which opened in 2001, was hit with the unfortunate timing of having a several 10-year leases come up for renewal this year and last, making it convenient for some retailers that joined the mall early on to jump to City Creek Center without any penalties.
The mall retained the vast majority of its tenants and has since gained nine new merchants, while two others have expanded. The open-air shopping center still has distinctive attractions, such as Megaplex movie theaters, Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, Clark Planetarium and recently, the Urban Arts Gallery showing contemporary local art.
Most of The Gateway's retail space is owned and managed by real estate investment company Retail Properties of America Inc., although some space is owned and managed by Boyer Co., the original developer of The Gateway and owner of the development's office buildings.
As part of its remake, The Gateway will emphasize features that City Creek Center doesn't offer, such as Sunday shopping, entertainment and alcohol served at a wider variety of restaurants.
In all, The Gateway has more than 100 stores, including 14 restaurants. But plenty of empty storefronts dot the landscape, and its once-bustling food court is a shadow of it former self.
As part of the renovation project, the grand hall in the railroad depot has been repainted, and the outside fountains have been upgraded, including the addition of new songs for water shows.
There also are plans to repair deteriorating concrete.
In the parking areas, brighter, more efficient lighting has been installed.
In addition, The Gateway, at 400 West between 200 South and South Temple,will endeavor to become more of a gathering place in the coming months.
The Urban Arts Gallery, in the space once leased by American Eagle Outfitters, boasts works from 35 artists. In addition, the Utah Arts Alliance's monthly Connect program, a networking event, is presented the second Friday of every month.
Cat Palmer, a Salt Lake City artist and photographer who is the curator, said the gallery also is planing regular entertainment events, including dance performances, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays. She has invited DJs Tuesday through Saturday, from 6 to 8 p.m.
"The Gateway is bringing art and making it more accessible to the community and everything is by local artists," she said. "Artists have been looking for a gallery to show their work, and now they have a place where they can go."
The Gateway mall
Located • 400 West, between 200 South and South Temple
Hours • 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 6 p.m., Sunday
Beginnings • Open-air shopping mall opened in 2001
Features • 100 stores, including Megaplex movie theaters, Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, Clark Planetarium, Urban Art Gallery Gateway events
Bunny Hop • March 29, Discovery Gateway, 1 p.m., 3 p.m., face painting, crafts, decorating cookies; members $10, nonmembers $13
My Little Pony • April 1-7, visit Build-A-Bear dressed in your favorite pony fashions, free guide with pony hairstyles
Fundraiser • $1 from the purchase of special teddy arriving March 27 at Build-A-Bear will be donated to fund research into autism
Bumble Bee Bash • April 12, Children's Museum celebrating 35th year of educating children; $25 individual, $115 family (up to 6 people)
MS Walk • April 28, check-in 8:00 a.m. Union Pacific Depot, 8-9:40 a.m. breakfast, festivities at Olympic Legacy Plaza, 10 a.m. 3-mile walk begins
Chalk Art • June 14-15, KSL Family Fair, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., chalk art festival 4-9 p.m. sponsored by Utah Foster Care Foundation
Entertainment •6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays, Urban Arts Gallery ,137 S. Rio Grande St.
For more information visit www.Shopthegateway.com