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Downtown SLC reports big growth, but says liquor laws, traffic are problems

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The downtown area is the midst of a big boom.

New developments are coming on line, including the Eccles Theater and 111 Main, and more and more businesses are moving into the central business district. The Downtown Alliance, which promotes the area, felt good about its annual report.

Window washers work on 111 Main, Salt Lake City's newest skyscraper. (Image by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Window washers work on 111 Main, Salt Lake City's newest skyscraper. (Image by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

There's about 11 million square feet of office space in use downtown. The new 111 Main Street skyscraper will be 90-percent occupied when it opens later this year, said Nadia Letey, the vice-president of CBRE.

"It's pretty amazing, just the amount of companies that are coming in and the lease rates they're willing to pay," she said.

More businesses want to locate downtown because younger workers like it, Letey said. The Downtown Alliance report said 81-percent of the workforce downtown is office, 10 percent work in restaurants.

See the top restaurants in Salt Lake City:

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Retail sales in the downtown area were more than $850 million in 2015, with City Creek Center leading the way. When women's clothier Fabletics opens, the shopping center will be finally at maximum occupancy.

"We don't actually have any other space available right now," City Creek Center General Manager Linda Wardell told FOX 13. "We're pretty full. We may not have any new stores in the near future."

According to a marketing survey posted by Downtown Alliance, Nordstrom and Apple are the top shopping destinations downtown. The Gateway was labeled by the group as an "opportunity" for growth, alongside planned $125 million in upgrades to the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Jason Mathis, the Downtown Alliance executive director, said he was also excited for an upcoming announcement of a convention center hotel.

See the top shopping destinations in downtown Salt Lake City:

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But not everything is rosy. Homeless problems, a lack of affordable housing and liquor laws are considered "weaknesses" in the Downtown Alliance report.

"We continue to hear a lot of pressure about the need for more club licenses, continued concerns about the Zion Curtain," Mathis said of liquor laws.

Regional competition, bad air quality, regulations and fees and the troubles on Rio Grande Street surrounding the homeless shelters were branded "threats" to downtown.

When it comes to what lures people downtown, a statewide marketing survey found that dining, arts and entertainment, festivals and shopping led the way. In a surprise, traffic has surpassed parking and panhandling as the biggest problems that keep people from coming downtown.

"Traffic was an unusual concern for us," said Mathis. "It's a big one this year we haven't seen in the past."

Read the State of Downtown report here:

Read the Downtown Alliance marketing survey here: