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The City Journals

Murrayites want more retail, restaurants or a theater

Aug 01, 2019 09:41AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Shared Pharmacy Services is expanding its building northward to the corner of 4800 South and Murray Boulevard. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

The answer to Murray’s most anticipated question of the summer, “What is being built on the former Hillcrest Junior High School site?” is (drum roll here) an assisted living center and hotel. According to Murray City Community and Economic Development Director Melinda Greenwood, “Abbington Assisted Living will be located at 5377 South State Street (directly east of Murray High School) and will be two stories tall and have 113 units. TownePlace Suites Hotel, a five-story building, will have 129 guest rooms. Last, this development also includes two additional commercial pad sites.”

In May, the Mayor and members of the city council attended RECon, the Global Retail Real Estate Convention organized by the International Council of Shopping Centers, to put out feelers for possible interested retailers to plant roots in Murray. The city has several large properties needing redevelopment, such as the vacated ShopKo on State Street and Kmart on 900 East, yet retailers are growing skittish of opening stores in an increasingly online market era.

The Murray Journal conducted a poll in May, asking Murray residents, “If you could request a particular store to be established in Murray, what would it be?” Of 129 respondents, the majority of comments were for more retail, restaurants and entertainment. Not one respondent asked for more medical or service-based industries.

Far and away, the most consistent requests made by poll takers were for large retailers, such as Target, Kohl’s or Harmons. Target announced on their website over 45 new store openings over the next three years; none of them in Utah. Kohl’s, according to Moneywise.com, was in better shape than most department stores, yet the chain closed four stores this year. A grocery store, such as Harmons, could fill a void that central Murray seems to lack, as there are no grocery stores between 900 East and 700 West in Murray. 

The poll also found that Murrayites want a movie theater. At one time, Murray was home to four movie theaters but currently has none. Last year, Regal Theaters opened a theater in Taylorsville, but movie theater openings are the exception and not the rule. Streaming services like Netflix have made the theater business uncertain, even though 2018 was a banner year for movie theaters, as ticket revenue increased by 8%.

What is certain is that Murray is the center of Intermountain Healthcare’s universe, with Intermountain Medical Center, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH), Select Health, and various supporting medical outlets located within Murray’s boundaries. However, the majority of these properties do not add to Murray’s sale’s tax base. Murray also has a large University of Utah health clinic and various independent physicians and dentists whose services do not contribute to Murray’s tax base.

Even more, the service-based industry is slated for Murray as the ground was broken across from Wheeler Farm for a Valley Behavioral Health Facility. The Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning, scheduled to open in July 2020, has yet to begin construction. Another medical entity, Shared Pharmacy Services, will expand their business on the corner of 4800 S. Murray Blvd.

Assisted living and rehabilitation centers are not exempt from Murray’s property taxes, which fund Murray’s schools, public safety department and infrastructure, among other things. However, retail contributes both property and sales tax to Murray’s coffers. Auto sales contribute significantly to Murray’s tax base, and some are expanding. The former Towers Plumbing property on State Street has been purchased by Larry H. Miller for car sales expansion. An America First Credit Union will also open on that site. A Shake Shack was announced to go into the former Applebees by Fashion Place Mall, while the Planning Commission voted to endorse changing the zoning of the 900 East former Kmart site from commercial to mixed us (commercial and residential).

The Murray Area Chamber of Commerce, an organization created to promote and support businesses in the Murray area, is calling for more community input. Stephanie Wright, president of the chamber, stated during the online poll, “I invite you to come to be engaged with the Murray Chamber, as we are your voice for business in Murray City. We have committees you can serve on that would help us mold and shape the business climate in Murray.”