Experience is a big part of shopping today. Shopping really is entertainment for a lot of people, so it has to be an experience every time they visit. —Linda Wardell, City Creek general manager
SALT LAKE CITY — The clock is ticking toward the highly anticipated opening of Utah's top retail development.
Fewer than 60 days remain until the scheduled March 22 grand opening of City Creek Center, a $1.5 billion downtown project that is expected to revitalize Salt Lake City's central business district.
Upon completion, City Creek will feature approximately 700,000 square feet of shopping and dining space, along with 536 new condominiums or apartments. Among the unique features of the 23-acre development are a 30,000-square-foot fully retractable glass roof, a sky bridge over Main Street and a re-creation of City Creek, the snow-fed stream that once meandered through the city.
City Creek general manager Linda Wardell of Taubman Centers Inc. said the project is on schedule for its planned March opening.
"The construction of the core (retail) building is really already complete," she said. "We've been (testing) all of our systems and know how they are going to operate."
She noted that the individual retail stores are in their "crunch time" as they work to meet their own deadlines for the impending opening.
"Usually, everything is simultaneously constructed," she said. "With City Creek, because of its mixed-used nature, the core part of our building was built first and then the stores were built in."
Taubman will operate the retail portion of the project, which will contain approximately 80 stores and restaurants. Wardell said one-third of the stores at City Creek will be unique to Utah, which will "keep bringing people back over and over again."
Headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., the company currently operates 26 retail shopping centers across the country, with six others in development — including properties in Asia and Puerto Rico.
To date, Taubman has invested about $76 million into the project.
The International Council of Shopping Centers has said that City Creek Center will be the only retail center opening in the U.S. in 2012, meaning the opening will likely garner national and even global attention, Wardell said.
Inquiries have come from media worldwide to attend the grand opening as well as other retail developers from around the globe. One local industry analyst said the new development would likely help bolster the overall strength of the entire downtown retail sector, including The Gateway.
"Retail growth will be slower at the beginning, but overall both projects will in time become thriving destination projects in the downtown area," said J.R. Moore, vice president of retail properties with commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Salt Lake City. "They'll fuel each other and make downtown an even more attractive place for shoppers and retailers."
Meanwhile, the finishing touches are being made on one of the more fascinating retail centers of its kind, she said.
"Experience is a big part of shopping today," Wardell explained. "Shopping really is entertainment for a lot of people, so it has to be an experience every time they visit."
She noted, however, that providing the "right collection of stores" is also essential to the overall shopping experience. In addition, the project will also include some of the best residential properties in the region — making City Creek a destination for visitors from across the Mountain West.
"You can come to this one central part of the city and be engaged with the city in such a unique way," Wardell said.