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Fresh from its brouhaha over alignment of the streetcar, the Salt Lake City Council maneuvered on Tuesday into a go-slow posture as it considers its next big initiative for Sugar House the Monument Plaza.
The plaza, as much as the streetcar, would change the face of Sugar House and run from McClelland Avenue to Highland Drive (1100 East) on the south side of 2100 South. It would encompass about 20,000 square feet and require permanently closing the diagonal right-turn lane on the southwest corner of the intersection at 2100 South and Highland Drive.
As currently contemplated, the plaza would provide public open space in the heart of Sugar House, but also would act as a venue for activities such as a farmers market, arts festival and concerts, said Councilman Soren Simonsen.
The plaza was adopted as part of the Sugar House Master Plan in 2001.
But rather than approve a design that has been seven months in the making, the council, acting as the city's redevelopment agency board, decided to hold off until the Sugar House (Traffic) Circulation Plan is completed and adopted. That plan will require public hearings and give residents and business owners a chance to weigh in on the plaza proposal, estimated to cost about $1.7 million.
Earlier this month, critics of the plan to extend the Sugar House Streetcar north on 1100 East complained that the public process leading up to that decision was insufficient. The council unanimously agreed more pubic outreach is necessary for the plaza proposal.
Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said that although the Sugar House Community Council and other groups may be aware of the plaza proposal, the general public most likely is not.
She opposes the plaza plan.
"The right-hand turn lane is unique. I think it contributes to walkability," she said. "It has a sentimental connection to Sugar House and it breaks my heart to see us lose it."
Beyond that, she said, closing the lane would further contribute to traffic congestion at the intersection of 2100 South and Highland Drive.
But RDA Chairman Stan Penfold said while there are trade-offs with the turn lane's closure for creation of a plaza, the new open space would promote a more "pedestrian-friendly atmosphere."
"We're going to see a big increase in people on the sidewalks in Sugar House," he said, referring to new housing projects. "The feedback we're getting is that support for walkability is loud and clear."
Although there appears to be broad support for a plaza, Councilman Carlton Christensen said approving a design before the Sugar House Circulation Plan is completed is not appropriate.
A majority of the board agreed.
The council most likely will review the traffic circulation plan in July, said Council Chairman Kyle LaMalfa. The council, sitting as the RDA board, would then again consider approving the design and budget for the plaza.
Best-case scenario for plaza plan backers?
O The Salt Lake City redevelopment agency's plaza project manager, Ed Butterfield, said that under a best-case scenario, plaza construction could begin by fall with completion by next spring. That would coincide with the opening of new retail shops in Craig Mecham's Sugar House Crossing project that abuts the proposed plaza.