Downtown News and Blog

My Own Downtown Staff Focus: Jesse Dean

May 18, 2018 Written by

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Seven questions with Jesse Dean, Director of Urban Development for the Downtown Alliance. See how downtown will look and feel differently in five years with downtown's development guru.

What is your first or fondest memory of downtown?

Oh, man! That's a tough one. My family has always been a big supporter of Tony Caputo and the Caputo's Gourmet Food Market and Deli. The memory that sticks out most to me is going down to his newly opened downtown location across from Pioneer Park. Tony had previously worked for Granato's Italian Deli but had decided to open his own business. I was what you'd call a "rambunctious" (to put it nicely) 10-year old and Tony had this line he'd say to me after years of seeing me tear through the Granato's shop. When we walked in, he'd say: "Jesse, this is my shop. You can do whatever you want in here. Because you know what? It doesn't really matter." The running joke in my family was that end line, "it doesn't really matter". If I knocked over a display or ran like a maniac through the store, Tony was there calming down my mom and reminding her that "it doesn't really matter." Although I didn't understand it at the time, Tony's business was the quintessential locally owned, family-friendly downtown business. Even when I see Tony today, he still reminds me of my youth and also his favorite catchphrase: "It doesn't really matter."

What is your favorite thing about downtown?

The people. I've worked at the Downtown Alliance for over 6 years and the people I've met through this job who are helping to shape our community are truly incredible. I must admit that our jobs at the Downtown Alliance are a bit weird. We can start our morning at Pioneer Park working with farmers market vendors from across the region and then having meetings with small business owners, property owners, developers, city employees and elected officials. These are disparate groups - but they are all united by one common factor: downtown. The passion they show for building a dynamic and diverse community makes coming into work everyday easy and rewarding. 

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

Downtown is developing at an unprecedented rate. The surface level parking lots of today will be office towers, residential units, hotels and retail locations in the future. Right now I think downtown is essentially divided in half between the East-side development and West-side development. Projects like Block 67 from the Ritchie Group, the Convention Center Hotel and Station Center will help to create a more cohesive, walkable downtown that is even more vibrant than what we see today. 

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

Salt Lakers have a chip on their shoulders based on inaccurate perceptions of our community from the outside. I think we too often want to replicate what's happening in other urban centers across the country vs. asking ourselves what is authentic to our identity as a city. I'm proud to be a native of Salt Lake City. Authenticity and ownership of your community, despite your own perceptions of its flaws, is the one thing I would change. 

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

Another tough one! I'm going to take the evening out on the town route. I would have them start at Copper Common for a cocktail and a shared plate of their incredible wings. From there, I'd send them up Main Street to Martine. My wife worked at Martine for a short stint when she first moved here from Chicago so it has a special place in my heart. The restaurant is located in a historic brownstone and for the architecture nerds out there it is located next to (literally touching) Salt Lake City's newest office tower, 111 Main. After Martine, I'd send them to the brand new Eccles Theater just down the street to catch a Broadway show, touring musician or comedy routine. 

What's your favorite day of the year downtown?

The first day of the Downtown Farmers Market. I love watching Pioneer Park come alive with the bustle of vendors, patrons and music along with 10,000 friends of downtown. 

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

I love the proximity of our foothills and mountains right out our back door. You can find me running with my dogs, hiking, mountain biking or skiing.