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The City Journals

Creative Convergence conference aims to help art-oriented businesses stay, thrive in South Salt Lake

Jun 23, 2017 11:58AM ● By Brian Shaw

During the city’s three-day creative convergence in May, those in attendance could point out where they feel South Salt Lake’s creative assets are located. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Brian Shaw  | [email protected]

For years, the city of South Salt Lake has been home to many art-oriented businesses. Two great reasons are that rents are consistently lower than in other areas of the city and you can find mixed-use development without any problem at all, according to Sharen Hauri, the city's urban design director. 

But, for various reasons these businesses put up shop in the city and stay for a while—yet the majority never sustain enough growth to survive. 

For Hauri, who is now in charge of making sure these businesses not only stay open but stay in South Salt Lake, the goal is to change that time-worn perception that South Salt Lake is a temporary stop along the way to something bigger in Salt Lake City's well-known Pierpont Arts District and make South Salt Lake more of a permanent landing spot for artists. 

“The overall goal is to make South Salt Lake a destination for creative businesses in Utah,” said Hauri. “We're trying to share our reputation for being welcoming to those types of businesses—to get more of those businesses, and then those types of businesses tend to drive other economic development.” 

Hauri adds that having more of these types of businesses in the city—because these businesses already exist here—will drive further growth in the housing market and tends to grow more office space as well, creating what she refers to as a “creative industries district.” 

That district, according to Hauri, would be built over time—because there isn't a specific timetable at the moment, she added—directly north of the city's new downtown district next to State Street and 2100 South. 

“We're looking for more. We love small businesses and they are part of our economy. We have a lot of small, older buildings with low-cost rent,” said Hauri. “The more critical mass you get, the better and more successful that economy is.” 

Similar to the Pierpont District in Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake's new arts district would be close enough to all the downtown action, yet far enough from the hustle and bustle to allow residents the opportunity to live and create inside their new community. 

“It will help us build an interesting and vibrant downtown,” said Hauri. “We want these people who create this art to have a place to live and work.” 

The good news, according to Hauri, is that most of the mechanisms to build this vibrant arts community have already been in place for several years now. “We've had an arts council and an arts coalition for about two years now, slowly building this plan—actually, we have a plan written to follow—so that formalizes the city's support for staff,” said Hauri. 

“That says we're going to apply for staff, we're going to have funding and so we can match the funding with city money to make these things happen.” 

Hauri added that the city is always looking for other ways to be more supportive of these creative businesses. She said they're open to creating more green space or rezoning more space for high-density housing. 

That said, Hauri reiterated that she doesn't want to gentrify the area, either. “It always happens, but this is a neighborhood that is very mixed-use today,” said Hauri. “There are a lot of different kinds of things happening between businesses, and there's a school district over there and a school, and there's warehouses and these small, creative businesses and then there's single-family homes and there's some apartments—and our goal is to keep it that way.” 

Because there are lots of small parcels—not to mention all the small-industry buildings that people are still using, she added—the city will push to make the area just as mixed-use as it is today. That's good news in an era when entire city blocks around the country are getting bulldozed in favor of high-density, high-end housing. 

While the idea of building an event center inside which the allowance of alcoholic beverages at such a venue came up during the city's conference in May, Hauri said the city wants to be more proactive when it comes to allowing liquor licenses in this area to small, creative businesses. 

“I think we're willing to reconsider that conversation at this point,” added Hauri, who said the city recommended that the smaller studios pool their resources in order to help subsidize their costs. “It's very hard to find affordable studio space, and living space. And so what a lot of arts districts do, is try to find a way to subsidize that, or to find a building and give a loan on it or apply for a grant. But the [two arts studios] we have here are full. People want more of it. So we'd like to help them do that.”