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After years of doing without,downtown Salt Lake City will have a grocery store with the opening of Harmons City Creek Wednesday, and urban dwellers could not be more delighted.

The store, just off the eastern edge of the giant City Creek development, will be the state's first large grocery in a downtown business district.

For downtown resident Michele Starley, the excitement is building on several levels. "I'm thrilled that we've finally gotten a grocery store. I think it will bring more people [downtown] to live. Not having a grocery store has been a big disadvantage to living here."

The store opening is a prelude to the March 22 debut of the $1.2 billion mixed-use City Creek development, owned and managed by the development arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The project features offices, condominiums and apartments, and nestled within will be City Creek Center, an upscale shopping center owned and operated by Taubman Centers Inc.

Brothers Bob and Randy Harmon, who run the grocery chain bearing their name, are counting on a growing mix of people who either work downtown, visit there, live there or who soon will, to form their customer base.

"Special care has gone into making our store a very inviting hub for the city where people working and shopping downtown can find the best-tasting and freshest food available," said Bob Harmon. "We love the City Creek development and are humbled to be a part of it. We've done our best to be innovative and meet the challenges of this special place so that the store is an asset to the area."

They expect the thousands of people who work downtown, but live in the suburbs, to be among those who shop at their new store. But it is the rapidly forming critical mass of downtown residents who they hope will make up a large portion of their clientele. The City Creek development alone is creating 536 housing units.

Harmons research has shown that within the City Creek store "footprint" — including downtown, the Avenues and surrounding neighborhoods — there are 30,000 households.

No matter where they live, customers will find a grocery store at Harmons City Creek unlike any ever seen in the downtown core, which has been without even a smaller grocery for at least a dozen years.

The new location features a kitchen where chefs will teach classes on various cuisines and where groups can stage catered parties. The store has obtained a limited liquor license to teach wine- and cheese-tasting classes.

The store, at 100 S. 135 East, is built on two levels — with separate entrances on Social Hall Avenue, around the corner on 100 South or from the elevator at the parking terrace.

The 50,000-square-foot ground level houses a large produce department and organic section, custom meat counter and a seafood counter with fresh fish flown in daily.

On the 18,000-square-foot mezzanine, there is a deli-style area with a seating capacity of about 300, which the Harmons hope will be a popular breakfast, lunch and dinner choice for the thousands of commuters working near the store.

Unlike Harmons' 15 other supermarkets, parking will be atop and below the new City Creek store. Shoppers will be given validations for free parking on the two levels. There also are several large multilevel parking lots within walking distance of the new store, reserved mostly for employees of businesses in the downtown area.

But downtown resident Marcia Swensen won't have to worry about parking and sees only convenience. "Now I can walk to the grocery store to do my shopping."

Although it is customary in larger cities for downtown grocers to offer a delivery service to customers nearby, Harmons has no immediate plans to offer one.

As it continues its focus on environmental sustainability, Harmons will not offer plastic bags at the City Creek store. The price of the reusable bags Harmons sells will be cut in half, from $1 to 50 cents, to encourage more use, and through vigorous recycling programs and composting arrangements for waste, the owners hope to cut the waste to the landfill by 65 percent, said CEO Dean Peterson.

In addition, lights in the frozen food aisles will dim when there are no shoppers in the vicinity, and will brighten when someone walks by.

Another fun feature is the store's three high-tech soda machines, each with the ability to serve 125 drink options. Shoppers can simply punch their choices onto the computer screen, and even mix their own drinks.

The downtown core hasn't had anything more than a convenience store since January 2000, when The American Store, a small upscale grocery, closed in what is now the Wells Fargo Center on Main Street. Developers have said that the area has been without a full-service grocery store for a quarter century.

Real estate broker Babs De Lay, who lives and works downtown, said she's so excited about the prospect of the new store that she's been emailing friends about it.

"It's only a block from [the TRAX line] and the cooking classes are a plus. It'll also be great to get fresh fruit. But best of all, Harmons is a locally owned business."

Tribune reporter Paul Rolly contributed to this story. —

Harmons City Creek grocery store

The Utah-based chain is opening its 16th store.

When • Wednesday, Feb. 15, starting at 9 a.m.

Where • 135 E. 100 South, downtown Salt Lake City

Hours • 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week

Features • Groceries, deli, meat, produce, artisan breads, coffee bar, cooking school, post office —

Behind the scenes

The design and construction teams for the City Creek store were Okland Construction and its subcontractors; Décorworx; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLC; Prescott Muir Architects; MHTN Architects; Spectrum Engineers and Professional Engineering Services.