The Gateway’s owners say it won’t be a shopping mall ever again

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Gateway has hit a major milestone in the $100 million revitalization project.

Vestar, the company that purchased the shell of a shopping mall several years ago, has completed the bulk of its improvements. They've added art installations, lured the Wiseguys Comedy Club and Dave and Buster's, and began hosting community events.

Now, Vestar will begin the next phase of its work, filling empty storefronts.

"Converting it all back into retail was not the answer," Jenny Cushing, the vice-president of leasing for Vestar, said in an interview with FOX 13.

Instead, Vestar is planning to focus on turning the area into a destination for entertainment, eating, living and work.

The bio-tech firm Recursion will take over 100,000 square feet of space in the old Dick's Sporting Goods store (they kept the climbing wall), and workshare space Kiln will open in 25,000 square feet of space on the second level.

New plans include turning the old Barnes & Noble into an entertainment venue, an 11,000 square foot food hall (Utah's first, Cushing said) opening next year near the movie theaters, and a luxury boutique hotel where the old Urban Outfitter's store used to be. There's also plans for more restaurants and events.

A lot of empty storefronts where retailers used to be will now become workspace for tech firms.

"We're poised to be the urban extension of Silicon Slopes," Cushing said. "We have a unique opportunity where we're going to bring on large blocks of creative workspace and repurposing the center and not necessarily converting it back into retail."

Vestar's investment in The Gateway was one of the catalysts for "Operation Rio Grande," the crackdown on crime surrounding the downtown homeless shelter next door. The shelter will close and move next year and the land has been sold to the state of Utah.

Cushing said the company was "very happy" with what they had seen so far in "Operation Rio Grande," praising state and local leaders for taking action.

"The neighborhood is night and day compared to what it was a year ago," she said. "We've noticed many more patrons coming here."

As it begins the next phase of The Gateway, it's apparent the concept of a traditional shopping mall is dead in this space.

"With the volatility of retailers in today's economy because of the internet, we feel like we have an opportunity to be competitive because we can offer an experience," Cushing said. "We feel like we can give people a reason to get off their phones."