Downtown News and Blog

My Own Downtown Staff Focus: Jason Mathis

March 9, 2018 Written by

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Seven questions with Jason Mathis, Executive Director of the Downtown Alliance. From hand-pulled taffy at the Lion House to his must-see destinations, find out what Jason loves about our city center.
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What is your first or fondest memory of downtown?

I grew up on 1200 East right by Rice Eccles Stadium, so downtown has always been part of my life. Most of my early memories from downtown involve food for some reason. I remember going to the deli in the basement of ZCMI department store. I also remember eating at the Mexican restaurant Tampico on Regent Street as well as making hand-pulled taffy at the Lion House for an early birthday. 

What is your favorite thing about downtown?

Shakespeare wrote: "What is a city but the people?"  To me, that is the critical element that sets downtown apart from every other neighborhood in the state. Downtown is diverse and attracts people with wildly different life experiences. And that's how it should be. It doesn't matter how much money you have, what you do for a living, the color of your skin, the size of your waistband, the country you came from, your religious views, your political beliefs or who you love: downtown is for you.  

How will downtown SLC look and feel differently five years from now?

There are a half dozen major projects that are ready for a public launch in the next three to six months. This is in response to the incredible renaissance we are currently experiencing downtown.  People want to live and work in this dynamic and diverse urban center. Most of these projects will take two or three years to build, so five years from now, you'll see 10,000 more people living downtown and another 20,000 people working downtown. 

Brick and mortar retail is undergoing a major shift right now, but people like being around other people. The need to socialize and be entertained in interesting surroundings hasn't gone away.  Hopefully, we manage the shifts in spending and interest in ways that reinforce downtown's role as Utah's coolest neighborhood. 

If you could change one thing about Salt Lake City, what would it be and why?

There is an unhealthy tension in our community holds us back. Specifically, I mean tension between LDS and non-LDS people and those with different political views. Most folks are just good people doing their best to do right by their jobs, families and communities - regardless of their religious beliefs or voting record. But on the fringes, there are people who are judgemental and bigoted. I've heard supposedly liberal people say things about Mormons that they would never say about another religious minority or ethnic group. And I've seen LDS people look down their noses at people who they believe are not living their lives the way that God has prescribed, because someone is gay or they drink or they just don't go to church on Sunday. It's not healthy. I wish people would spend more time worrying about their own path forward and less time condemning others for their religious or political beliefs. We can all do better. 

Friend or family is coming to town, asking for entertainment recommendations. What three places do you send them to?

City Creek Center is pretty impressive as a planned urban community. The way it wraps around TRAX and incorporates other parts of the city into the design, not to mention all the bells and whistles like the trout pond and retractable roof, is unique. When colleagues from other cities see this planned development, they are always blown away by the quality of the project and the thought that went into it.  I also like all the back streets and alleyways that connect the big block and streets. I don't have a car so I walk or GREENbike all around downtown and I always try to go by way of Edison Street, Exchange Place, Regent Street or Pierpont Ave. 

Honestly one of the best parts about downtown are the diverse restaurants and bars. There are exceptional dining and nightlife experiences in downtown. whenever I hear that somebody went to a suburban chain restaurant for a meeting or celebration, it makes me sad for them that they missed out on a more interesting and deep experience downtown. 

What's your favorite day of the year downtown?

New Year's Day, the day after Thanksgiving and opening day of the Downtown Farmers Market and Twilight. Also pretty much the whole month of May when flowers are out on Temple Square, the Gateway, City Creek Center and along Main Street. Temperatures are sunny and mild and everybody wants to be outside. 

When you are not working or playing downtown, what do you do for fun or entertainment?

 I like to ski at Snowbird, hang out with my wife, son and dog and run Spartan Races.  
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