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Salt Lake City moved forward Tuesday with plans for a 2,500-seat, $110 million Utah Performing Arts Center that would attract musicals and plays downtown.
The City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency Board, approved a development agreement with Swisher Garfield Traub worth about $4.5 million.
But the unanimous approval didn't come without some consternation concerning project funding and design for the Broadway-style theater to be located on the east side of Main Street between 100 South and 200 South.
Second-term Mayor Ralph Becker hopes the theater will, among other things, attract City Creek Center shoppers.
But freshman City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa wants a project that attracts the entire community.
"The theater isn't just a building," LaMalfa said. "It's the people in the building, too."
To that end, he suggested that Swisher Garfield Traub hold more than the six open houses it had planned to get public input on the theater's design.
Developing the theater's design is the next hurdle for city officials, who would like to see the playhouse open within four years.
Among those expected to put forth a proposal is Moshe Safdie, who designed Salt Lake City's showcase Main Library.
Councilman Luke Garrot said the project's success depends on what he called "community buy-in." The risk is high, he warned. The more community groups that buy in to the theater, the better.
Garrot was among council members who had concerns that Salt Lake County had yet to sign on. City officials hope the county will pitch in about 20 percent of the total price tag.
"I'm under no delusions about this [theater] project," Becker said. "There are a lot of people who are very excited about this. And there are people who are very nervous about it."
Public involvement, the mayor agreed, is key. "My hope is if we listen well enough … and respond well enough, we will have success."
The city learned a lot about community involvement when it developed the design for the $125 million Public Safety Building, under construction east of Library Square.
Paying for streetlights
The Salt Lake City Council put off a decision Tuesday on whether to change the way it funds streetlights.
Right now, it's done through property tax assessments. But the council is considering creating an enterprise fund through a yet-to-be-determined fee structure.
The current streetlight budget is $1.1 million, but David Everitt, the mayor's chief of staff, told the council it must be increased to $2.8 million. About 1,500 streetlights in the city are burned out, he said.