Downtown News and Blog

1962 Plan for Downtown SLC: “Easy to Reach—Easy to Park—Easy to Move About, The Pedestrian Paradise”

March 5, 2020 Written by Dee Brewer

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Dee Brewer, Executive Director

A century after Salt Lake City was established, a group of downtown stakeholders began working on a remarkably enduring vision for downtown—the Second Century Plan which they unveiled in 1962.

The Downtown Planning Association, Inc and the Utah Chapter of the American Institute of Architects put big ideas forward in plan. They proposed a campus of cultural buildings for performances and gatherings (think Salt Palace and Abravanel Hall) and called for a farmers market and a transportation center. They sketched plans for a modern government complex to anchor the south end of downtown. And the planners suggested that City Creek Park be extended toward downtown (which it was) and programmed with a planetarium, aquarium, natural history museum and a children’s science museum.  

They called for mid-block crosswalks and covering downtown sidewalks with canopies. They advocated for “increasing the density, efficiency and attractiveness of the undeveloped interiors of downtown blocks” with inviting walkways and plazas. “Main Street should become a street where pedestrians have right-of-way all of the time” they declared. 

The stakeholders wrote at length about transportation and how the new interstate highway should be integrated. They designated West Temple and State Street as downtown car corridors and envisioned shuttle bus systems to connect the various anchors and reduce unnecessary car traffic. “Once autos and busses have brought people downtown they should be able to shed their vehicles easily.” And they advised downtown development should accommodate helicopter service from the new airport. Helipads didn’t catch on, but it is impressive how much of the plan has been implemented. 

Culture, technology and our economy have evolved immensely in the last sixty years and the next sixty years will be even more transformative. As we plan for those transformations, I think we can borrow the 1962 planners’ guiding principle to illuminate our path: “People give life, vitality and excitement to any city’s downtown—their needs and desires must be the dominant factor in any plan for the future.”

View the Second Century map and text plans.