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In his latest move to remake historic Trolley Square, owner Khosrow Semnani wants to build a new housing and commercial complex just south of the shopping center.
The Iranian-born industrialist, who bought the eastern Salt Lake City mall out of bankruptcy in 2013, has applied to rezone seven adjacent parcels, including the parking lot beneath the 600 South sky bridge.
Semnani's Trolley Square Ventures hopes to redevelop the land into a multistory, mixed-use complex of apartments, town homes and boutique retailers with a major nod to Utah history.
Designs are modeled on what was known as the Utah Exposition Building, a structure built on the site in 1888 and used in several state fairs. Preliminary renderings show several vintage buildings at least four stories high with a grand arched entrance facing 600 South and two dome towers.
The exact number and mix of rentals hasn't been decided, although Semnani said he would prefer apartments with larger floor plans. Trolley Square Ventures has made its initial application to rezone 3.75 acres for a blend of commercial and residential uses.
Current designs call for preserving 288 existing parking stalls at the bridge's base and essentially wrapping the new development around them.
A Planning Commission hearing on the rezoning request is set for Wednesday. Because the site falls within the Central City Historic District, any new construction also requires review and approval by the city's Historic Landmark Commission.
Semnani said the period architectural themes are part of a wider strategy of emphasizing the nostalgic nature of Trolley Square, known for its red-brick trolley barns, iconic water tower, wrought-iron balconies and other antique elements.
"I take pride in what this place is," he said, "and I want to highlight it."
Mall managers also plan to open an interactive kid-friendly museum, highlighting the site's past as a former streetcar hub.
"I really can't wait to make all this happen," Semnani said.
A self-made millionaire and founder of a low-level radioactive waste repository in Tooele County that became EnergySolutions, Semnani was new to the mall business when he bought Trolley Square and adjacent land.
After years of sales declines and a 2007 mass shooting, the shopping center was barely half full when Semnani's S.K. Hart Management took over.
Improvements to the exterior, tenant spaces and the distinctive water tower began almost immediately. The businessman plans to spend up to $4 million on renovations.
The shopping center is now about a third vacant, according to Trolley Square property manager Mandy McKenna.
Mall managers have recruited key tenants, including an art gallery, coffee shop, fitness and yoga centers, a barbershop, wedding clothier and a sizable events center available for private and corporate functions.
"Two more years of work," Semnani said, "and you won't recognize this place."
Several longtime tenants said foot traffic has been improving.
"We're definitely seeing steady growth," said Jeff Murray, general manager of The Old Spaghetti Factory. "It's great to see it going in the right direction."
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