Downtown SLC hopes for an increase in holiday crowds

SALT LAKE CITY — The holiday lights are on from Temple Square all the way down Main Street and businesses are hoping the crowds will come back.

The massive City Creek Center is finished and a downtown craft market has popped up at the Gallivan Plaza. The Gateway mall is luring shoppers with entertainment. The Downtown Alliance launched on Friday the “Jingle Bus,” a free ride from Gallivan to City Creek to the Gateway and back again.

“Our job is to bring people into the downtown area, and this is one more attraction, one more reason for people to come downtown,” said Jason Mathis, the executive director of the Downtown Alliance, a coalition of businesses.

Downtown has battled a perception that there is limited parking, when, in fact, there are more than 30,000 spaces available, said the Downtown Alliance’s Nick Como.

Still, the “Jingle Bus,” is hoping to help people get around and stay downtown. Businesses are hoping the holiday season is good to them.

“We’re usually quite a bit busier during the holiday season, especially after Thanksgiving up through the new year,” said Jason Stockham, the brewmaster at Squatter’s Pub. “It’s one of the busier times for us.”

With City Creek and surrounding projects finished, downtown businesses are hoping crowds that left during construction will come back.

“It was certainly a challenge, but downtown, there are some things you can only get down here, people want that experience,” said Como. “We’ve always fared really well, so I think this year is going to be the best year.”

One thing unknown: How the new City Creek Center will fare against suburban malls, and how The Gateway will also fare. Research by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research found the downtown malls (then the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Mall) faced a greater threat from surburban shopping centers.

“That’s great that our city is large enough to support both of them and there is enough demand for both,” Como said. “They’re not cookie cutter duplications of each other. it’s not like another mall in the suburbs that looks like any other mall in the suburbs.”

Recent market research of the downtown area found dining was the number one reason people came downtown (63-percent of those surveyed), followed by shopping (54 percent) and attending religious services or events at 47 percent.

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