Image via WikipediaImagine getting of a train whether it be Front Runner or the California Zephyr (or any other long distance train that should service Salt Lake City), and arriving at a beautiful station mixing classic architecture with state of the art facilities. You have shopping, hotels, motels, and entertainment just a few steps away. Well, that dream died many years ago when Boyer was allowed to develop the Gateway center and those non-essential trains were moved several blocks away were no one will notice them.
Today we do have a nice intermodal depot but at the present time it is a shadow of what it could have been and can be in the future. The danger of the present station is that it will become a place that people get off Front Runner as quickly as possible, run over to TRAX and avoid the neighborhood completely. Instead to become a true Central Station, the station needs to be not only a station but a destination.
I posted a video back in December about the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. Take a look at their website and see what is provided. Now they have substantially more trains than Salt Lake probably will ever have, but it gives you a good idea about the range of facilities to be found in great stations.
While there is at least one hotel planned across the street from Central Station, more needs to be done to truly make it a world class station. Here are some suggestions to take it to the next level:
-Make 100 South and 600 West a predestrian and transit corridor from the Gateway area to Central Station. While there is currently one building under redevelopment in the corridor, the rest of the area is pretty vacant and could easily be redeveloped. Then UTA can route a majority of the buses via 300 West/100 South/600 West to access the station. There is already a plan to turn 300 South into a pedestrian corridor but this will only link the station to the back side of the former Rio Grande Station and do little to connect the station with the main downtown core. A side benefit of creating this corridor along 100 South is that it is farther away from the homeless shelter that leaves a stigma (right or wrong) on 200 South at 400 West.
-Finish the second phase of Central Station that includes the parking garage along 200 South, and the building extending toward the current Amshack at the south end of the property.
-Insure that a lower priced motel is located near the station, possibly near the proposed higher end hotel to ensure that all travelers have a choice of accommodations.
-UTA should develop plans to either move their central garage or possible place it underground with development such as offices and restaurants above it. As developments moves toward the station, the present location of the garage will become a hindrance.
-Since there is little chance of attracting major retailers to the area with both the City Creek Center and Gateway trying to attract them, there is a great opportunity to build a center dedicated to locally owned stores and restaurants. There was talk of turning the old warehouse into a farmers market. This is an excellent idea to focus on the local culture. The Central Station could become Salt Lake version of the Pike Street Market giving new opportunities to locally owned retailers that get shut out by other places either by tax incentives, subsidies to big box retailers, and the false stigma of locally owned retailers.
We do have an opportunity to create a grand Central Station, but it will take a lot of effort, some create thinking, and a group of planners and city councilman that don't give into to special interest.