This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A little bit of Paris it isn't.
Salt Lake City's 600 South between Interstate 15 and State Street the entrance to the capital city is downright unattractive. It not only lacks ambiance, it's bad for business.
That's what Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber, told a state legislative panel last week. And according to chamber data, a lot of people share that opinion.
The lack of aesthetics along the street as well as 500 South that exits visitors to the city onto I-15 leaves a bad impression and holds back economic development, Beattie told the Business and Labor Interim Committee.
Some 46,000 autos enter the city via 600 South daily, according to data from the Utah Department of Transportation.
"When they turn off the freeway, there are a lot of people who are not very impressed," Beattie said. "We believe these roads need attention."
The chamber, Sinclair Oil and other private- and public-sector entities have launched the Grand Boulevards Corridor Plan, which seeks to dress up 600 South and 500 South.
From now until fall, the group will seek input from stakeholders including Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County on how to improve the appearance of the arteries.
Among concerns are high-voltage power lines, billboards, vacant lots and unsightly properties, as well as a lack of greenery, directional signs and other amenities, such as monuments that would highlight the city's history.
"We can't do it without your support and participation," Beattie told the committee. "We aren't here to ask the state to do it [all]. We just want to make sure you are one of the players."
As part of a computer-aided presentation, Clint Ensign, senior vice president of Sinclair Oil, showed a photo of an entry to Paris and then an image of 600 South looking east from I-15. The contrast was stark.
It isn't the first time Salt Lake City has been held up to Paris. Proponents of selling Main Street between South Temple and North Temple streets to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1999 said quietude and flowers there would be like "a little bit of Paris."
Ensign told the panel that upgrading the roadways should not be put off. "We need to act now," he said. "Waiting will only make it more difficult."
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, wondered aloud if her city's roadways shouldn't be considered, too. She noted that West Valley City could, one day, be the largest municipality in Utah. It's the second-most populous now.
That prompted Beattie to note that when the capital city gets upgrades, it acts as a catalyst for growth and development in other Utah cities.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo and the committee co-chairman, said the Legislature would like more information as the group identifies specific upgrades to the thoroughfares.
"It's important to make the case of how the state will be a partner," Bramble said. Under a best-case scenario, legislation outlining the state's participation could be prepared in November for the 2017 session of the Utah Legislature.
In an interview, Bramble said he was optimistic the Legislature would get on board with Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and others to make the capital city's main entry and exit points more appealing.
Although bringing various public and private entities together to create a common vision for the roadways will be challenging, Bramble said, it could be achieved in the near future.
"There is a culture in Utah ... we find ways to build on what we have."
Among the significant challenges are the high-voltage power lines owned and operated by Rocky Mountain Power and dozens of Reagan Outdoor Advertising billboards.
It may not be economically feasible to put the lines underground, Ensign said.
And Salt Lake City ordinances do not favor upgrading billboards to include electronic lighting displays. Nonetheless, committee members said they would make sure the advertising company would be included in the discussions and treated fairly.
Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, said billboards provide a public service and electronic upgrades may be appropriate.
The Grand Boulevards project is one of eight to come out of Downtown Rising, a lobbying and marketing campaign launched by the Salt Lake Chamber and aimed at reviving commerce and activity in the heart of Utah's capital.