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The City Journals

Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center puts Taylorsville on the conference and convention map

Oct 05, 2021 09:54AM ● By Carl Fauver

City Planner Mark McGrath, APAUT Executive Director Judi Pickell, Taylorsville Planning Commission member Lynette Wendel and Mayor Kristie Overson (L-R) were all in attendance for the opening of the first-ever professional conference at the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Move over Salt Palace Convention Center. Make room, Mountain America Exposition Center. There’s a new player in the Salt Lake Valley conference and convention arena, courtesy of the new $40 million Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center.

Last month, a group you’ve never heard of made Taylorsville history in a way you’ve never thought about. The Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association hosted its annual two-day fall conference inside the MVPAC, becoming not only the first professional conference in the new center but actually the first sizeable convention ever in the city’s 25-year history.

APAUT is a nonprofit group of professionals, planning officials and citizen planners who serve Utah communities. Its website (apautah.org) claims “membership is also represented by academics, students and retired professionals.” 

Taylorsville City Planner Mark McGrath is APAUT’s historian.

“I was [APAUT’s] newsletter editor for about 10 years, but I’m new as chapter historian,” McGrath said. “Like many other groups, we are trying to get back to normal, piecing things together after COVID. We have about 500 Utah members, with about 75% of them being professional practicing planners. This is our first face-to-face chapter conference in two years.”

APAUT Executive Director Judi Pickell was first to suggest her organization make use of the new arts center.

“I saw the news coverage of the [MVPAC] construction and then looked it up on the county website,” she said. “We wanted a place large enough for breakout rooms and centrally located [in the Salt Lake Valley]. We also wanted the site to be architecturally interesting.”

Pickell reports, APAUT paid a “nonprofit rate” of about $4,500 to Salt Lake County, for the rooms and equipment they required, along with staffing and cleaning fees.

“We have about 350 people registered for the conference, and this location seems to be just about right for that many,” Pickell said.

With the larger of the two MVPAC theaters seating 440 people, that’s the functional capacity for conferences at the site. It’s a far cry from the capacity at the Salt Palace, Sandy’s expo center or the Maverik Center in West Valley City. But, for more modest-sized convention (300 to 450 attendees), the new Taylorsville location appears to be a good fit.

Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson welcomed APAUT attendees to its two-day event.

“Yours is the first conference of this size we have hosted on the Taylorsville Centennial Plaza campus,” she said. “We consider it serendipitous this first conference is for Utah’s American Planning Association. That’s because we, as a city, have long shared APA Utah’s vision. Like you, we know how important future development and re-development are to our community.”

Overson also told attendees about several community improvement projects now underway in Taylorsville, including the following:

  • New five-building, 647-unit West Point apartment complex scheduled for construction on the southwest corner of Bangerter Highway and 5400 South.
  • Midvalley Connector Bus Rapid Transit line, which will feature 15 bus stations and 1.4 miles of dedicated transit lanes along 4500/4700 South.
  • Redesign of the Carriage Square shopping center to improve and update buildings, sidewalks and parking—using Community Development Block Grant funding—on the southwest corner of Redwood Road and 4100 South. 
  • 70,000-square-foot Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple—now under construction on 4700 South, just west of the belt route—which will be seen by 100,000 I-215 drivers each day.

“There are many more projects underway in Taylorsville, but these are a few of the highlights,” Overson said, as she concluded her welcoming remarks. “Whether serving as a professional planner, planning official or city planner, each of you is doing vital work. You are creating places where people want to be.”

Following Overson, Method Studio Senior Project Manager Todd Kelsey told conference attendees more about the performing arts center. Method Studio designed the structure, with input from city and county officials. It was a project near and dear to his heart.

“I’m a Taylorsville native,” he said. “I rode my bike on this property when I was a kid.” 

Among the Taylorsville City Planning Commission members attending the two-day conference was Lynette Wendel.

“[The conference] was a great opportunity to share ideas,” Wendel said. “There was a lot of conversation about what Utah will look like in our new climate, what our transportation and housing needs will be and how we can improve economic sustainability. It was also nice to see so many women involved in the conference, because planning and local government has been a male-dominated space.” 

The APAUT conference marked the first time the arts center has drawn a large crowd during regular business hours. That meant the event would be the first significant test of whether the 210 parking stalls north of the MVPAC would be adequate. Overson was pleased to see they were.

“Parking was good, exactly what we expected,” she said. “As we were planning the [MVPAC], we knew we had to have enough spaces available to hold events during city business hours. We were delighted to see it all work. We can still conduct business as usual [inside Taylorsville City Hall] while a convention like this is going on.”

From day one, some five years ago, as the arts center plans were first being discussed, those involved had promised the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center would do more than house plays and musicals. Taylorsville City and Salt Lake County officials have always intended for the facility to be kept bustling, to both maximize its financial value and to establish the MVPAC as a key gathering spot for local residents.

“[This APAUT conference] does open the door to a world of opportunities [inside the MVPAC],” McGrath said. “It’s not just a performing arts facility. It is a perfect location for conventions like this, particularly when combined with Centennial Plaza. With food trucks serving meals outside—and lots of open space for people to eat and relax—I’m sure the arts center will draw many more conferences in the future.”

Speaking of Centennial Plaza, city officials plan to hold their ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 15 for the new green space, sidewalks, picnic benches and $750,000 outdoor amphitheater. Event details are available at taylorsvilleut.gov.