DTA Staff

DTA Staff

The Downtown Alliance can learn from the successes of other neighborhoods and downtowns throughout the country. The Urban Exploration program brings public and private sector leaders together to learn about the best practices of other cities. This is the sixth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities.

The Urban Exploration program is a working trip focused on building relationships and inspiring innovation in downtown Salt Lake City. This year's urban exploration participants will learn about downtown Austin's recently completed developments, nightlife economy, the visitor economy, public arts, parks and much more. 

This is the sixth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities: we visited New York in 2014, Chicago in 2015, San Francisco in 2016, Boston in 2017 and Minneapolis in 2018. 

Austin's Urban Development - Past, Present & Future:

Our group started off the day by meeting with members of the Downtown Austin Alliance to discuss the surge of development Austin has experienced over the past 10 years. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dewitt Peart, Downtown Austin Alliance President & CEO and Mike Kennedy, Downtown Austin Alliance Board Chair. Our group learned about several notable developments that have recently been completed and dozens of planned commercial and residential projects that are helping to fuel Austin's nation-leading growth. 
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Waller Creek - Activation Through Public-Private Partnerships:

After hearing from our friends at the Downtown Austin Alliance, our group headed over to the Waller Creek Conservancy to learn more about the public-private partnership that is helping to revitalize the Red River Cultural District of Austin. We heard from John Rigdon, Waller Creek Conservancy's Director of Planning and Design and Meredith Bossin, Director of Engagement about the progress that has taken place with this exciting project. Our presenters provided a glimpse of the project's history and planning of park developments along with some of their community programs. We also had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the construction progress and view the New Monuments installation at Waterloo Park. 
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Lunch at Stubbs and the Austin Nightlife Economy:

After calling the meeting to order with a Bad Brad Wheeler harmonica performance, we learned about leveraging our Nighttime Economy: from economic to cultural to social. The impact of a city's nighttime economy should be both a point of civic pride and a star of economic development initiatives. We heard from Cody Ross Cowan, a local with a lifetime of the Austin music scene experience (Red River Cultural District) and from Elizabeth Cawein with Sound Diplomacy, a leading consultant helping governments and businesses achieve their social, cultural and economic goals using music as a tool. A nighttime economy can help drive economic growth, tourism, sustainability and vibrancy of cities.
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Afternoon Tours:

Our lunch at Stubbs was followed by several optional activities that were strategically selected projects and initiatives that correlate to emerging initiatives and trends in downtown Salt Lake City – with a little bit of fun mixed in for good measure!

Capital Factory Tour:
Capital Factory has developed a unique ecosystem of a startup pipeline, developing entrepreneurs into startups and eventually corporations. We toured the programs and resources available, including brief pitches from Capital Factory companies and a VR experience. This was followed with a panel presentation from Kim Abrams with Goldman Sachs, Kwee Lan Teo with the Austin Chamber and Janet Huang with UT Austin. This panel was focused on workforce development in Austin, including how Capital Factory has been able to contribute to the startup economy. We heard perspectives from the university, public, and private sectors about strategies for talent recruitment and retention, and how the unique nature of Austin's business and cultural climates have impacted those efforts. 
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Art Walking Tour:
We joined Kristian Anderson for an amble to some of downtown Austin's most selfie and 'gram worthy works of art as we talked about the role of public art, art in the public, and tackled that elusive term “iconic". The 3.9-mile route around downtown Austin included:
Big Chiller BluesLong Live ArtWillie Nelson StatueAustin City HallOpen Room Austin, Gables Park Plaza, Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue and 300 1/2 Congress Ave. 
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Urban Redevelopment District Tour:
We took a closer look at some of the significant redevelopment projects that have taken place in the downtown area. 2nd Street District and Seaholm (Virtual Tour) were the areas of focus for this exciting, on-the-ground tour. The City of Austin's Economic Development Department and Redevelopment Agency provided a customized tour of these redeveloped areas along with AMLI, the city's development and retail partner.
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At long last, the retail spaces along Regent Street are starting to open. The mid-block street was revitalized along with the opening of Eccles Theater almost three years ago. Patrons have welcomed Last Course, Fireside, and the ever-popular Pretty Bird, but most of the spaces have remained vacant until now. With three more new restaurants, the corridor connecting City Creek Center and Gallivan Plaza will only continue to liven up. We can’t wait to see what else is in store for Regent Street!

Recently Opened

Five Sushi Brothers | 67 West 100 South
What started out as a late-night sushi delivery service quickly turned into a popular Provo restaurant. Almost three years later, Five Sushi Brothers opened up in Salt Lake City last month right in front of the Salt Palace. Stop by for some tasty rolls, and keep an eye out for the late night delivery service starting in SLC very soon.

Heart & Seoul Karaoke | 67 West 100 South
Neighboring Five Sushi Brothers is a new recreation destination. Heart & Seoul is modeled after the “norebang” karaoke rooms found across Korea. Bring a group of friends, reserve a private room, and select from more than 30,000 songs. It’s a karaoke experience you won’t want to miss.

Honest Eatery | On Regent Street
If you’ve been going to Jazz games this season, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the açaí bowls from Honest Eatery. After some construction delays, they just opened up a storefront right next to Last Course on Regent Street. Protein shakes and premium toast options make for a perfect breakfast or lunch, or you can customize your own açaí bowl with a variety of gourmet toppings.

Mali Thai | 238 South Main Street
We were sad to see Este Deli depart from Main Street, but before we knew it Mali Thai came in to take its place. The transition was so quick, you’ll still find some of the window stickers left from the deli. The spot is only open for lunch on weekdays, but it may just prove to be a hidden gem of a lunch spot to break up your workday.

Seon Korean Barbecue | 423 West 300 South
Combine all-you-can-eat with Korean barbecue and you’re sure to have a winner. Seon just opened up just west of Pioneer Park. Come hungry because you’re sure to get your fill of meat and sides prepared fresh just for you.

Opening Soon

MAIZE | On Regent Street
One of Salt Lake’s most popular food trucks is opening up is getting a permanent home on Regent Street. The taco shop is looking mostly furnished, and is dues to open up any day now!

Sweet Rolled Tacos | 157 South Rio Grande (At The Gateway)
We all know in the Instagram age, how food looks is just as important as how it tastes. Well, Sweet Rolled Tacos has a rainbow of colorful ice cream tacos ready to shine on social media. The bright waffle cones shells are filled with a variety of creative rolled ice cream flavors and toppings. With a few stores in southern California, the chain will be expanding to The Gateway this summer.

Turmeric | On Regent Street
The second location for this Indian restaurant from Draper will be joining the dining scene on Regent Street. Keep your eye out for an Indian menu filled with curry adding a bit of international flair to downtown very soon.

Do you know of a new business I missed? Got a tip of one getting ready to open? Let me know at !

Running a successful hotel, as you might guess, is no small thing. Inspiring and retaining team members; increasing sales and brand awareness; staying on the cutting edge of design, technology, and culinary trends; and giving back to the communities in which they operate are just a few of the challenges hotel managers tackle on a day-to-day basis. Here we introduce you to two downtown Salt Lake City hoteliers who make the complicated juggling act of running a hotel look easy.

Meet the Players:

Abby Murtagh, General Manager of Hilton Salt Lake City Center (255 S. West Temple St, Hilton.com), began her career in hospitality and catering even earlier than Opsahl, when she was just 14. Murtagh grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and enjoyed cooking for friends and family. She took her passion to the next level by launching her own successful catering company, Abigail’s Catering Service. It was then that the self-taught entrepreneur knew she had a future in the industry.

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Murtagh earned a bachelor’s degree from The Cornell School of Hotel Administration with a concentration in Food and Beverage. Her hospitality path continued with leadership positions at Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company, Interstate, Kimpton and Hilton. Murtagh served as Resident Manager at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria New York before moving to Salt Lake. “As the leader of the Hilton Salt Lake City, I make it our priority to be the best we can be each and every day and make a difference to our guests, our team and our owners,” says Murtagh. “I offer the perspective of having lived in nine states and working with diverse cultures and environments.”

Entering his thirteenth year as General Manager of Salt Lake City Marriott City Center (220 S. State St, marriott.com), Doug Koob is well versed in the eclectic downtown hotel scene. The Kansas City, Missouri native graduated in business communications and then entered the hospitality world to work and travel with Marriott International. Sales and marketing positions took him to various parts of the U.S. and in 1994, he landed in Utah.

General manager was the next step for Koob, serving in this position at various properties around Salt Lake and Ogden. His current downtown location is in the heart of the city and that is one of the selling points for Koob and his hotel. “Downtown Salt Lake is clean, welcoming and has a very positive vibe for our guests,” says Koob. “It makes my job easier for guests to come back when the city sells itself.”

Standing Out from the Crowd

Hilton’s innovative approach to technology, amenities and service resonates at Murtagh’s property. The tech-savvy lobby welcomes guests and provides charging stations and the fastest Wi-Fi in the city. They offer the latest in hotel technology with the Digital Key and recently installed charging stations for electric vehicles. The pet-friendly 499-room hotel features 19 suites (the most of any hotel in the city) and flexible meeting space.

Murtagh’s passion for quality dining shines through at the hotel’s renowned steakhouse, Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops. The Best of State-awarded restaurant and winner of the 2017 and 2018 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence delivers contemporary and seasonal dishes, local produce and cheeses as well as cocktails, local craft beers and 497 labels of wine. Her favorite dish? The burrata salad and house-made watermelon sorbet.

Koob believes that the Marriott’s distinct location next to popular tourist attractions (City Creek, Temple Square and Gallivan Center) and the new downtown developments (the Eccles Theatre, Regent Street and the financial district) is what separates his hotel property from others. Weekend travelers looking to get away and see the sights find comfort in Marriott’s spacious guest rooms and La Bella Piastra, the hotel’s signature Italian restaurant. Weekdays bring in individual business travelers, giving them convenient access to downtown businesses. “Our hotel stays true to Marriott International’s vision of providing a distinctive property geared toward the business and leisure traveler,” Koob says.

“Things radically shifted from the moment our CEO, Matt Anderson, attended the 3% Conference, which promotes female leadership in advertising. Not only did he learn more about the true value of female perspective in great work, but he felt the discomfort of being the gender minority in the room. It sent him on a more profound journey: not only did we need more women at Struck, but to draw them, we’d need to foster a diverse environment where they’d want to stick around,” recounts Pauline Ploquin, president and partner at Struck, a Salt Lake-based integrated agency.

The advertising and marketing spheres can indeed be painfully sparse when it comes to female leadership and representation. Compound that with the fact that Utah’s still working to close its corporate leadership gender gap, and it feels like marketers must have a very long way to go.

Not content to sit solo at the conference room table, here we introduce you to three women using savvy and leadership to solve the problem proactively while taking their companies to the next level and changing the face of their industry, for good.

Jocelyn Kearl
Co-Owner & Chief Strategist, Third Sun Productions, 422 W. 900 South, thirdsun.com

Jocelyn Kearl found her footing in marketing through years of nonprofit work, grant-writing, and fundraising. “It was a self-taught proving ground,” she says. “And now, Third Sun Productions has forged its own path outside the traditional ad agency landscape. We work with great people—most often nonprofits and small businesses. While we’re a small organization of just four employees, we’re much bigger than that thanks to the partners we work with in town. There’s an incredible creative pool of talent in Salt Lake to draw from.”

Now 13 years in, Third Sun Productions primarily offers branding and websites, with more than 200 clients, half of whom are nonprofits and community organizations. “We’ve been lucky to attract partners and clients who play a major role in making Salt Lake so interesting,” Kearl says. “That includes the Salt Lake Farmer’s Market, the Utah Arts Festival, the State Room, Utahns Against Hunger and Meditrina. There’s so much going on here, and we love helping clients cut through the noise.”

Every business has a vision and a mission—or at least it should. But conveying that strategically is a fun problem-solving job for experts. “Why don’t we have more women flowing into creative jobs?” asks Kearl. “The skill set isn’t hard for us to access—rather, bias holds us back from entering and moving up. But the women in our industry and business network have an innate desire to support each other and lift each other up.”

And, if one can’t create diversity externally, one can still foster it internally. Her advice to up-and-comers: “Know your stuff, pay your dues, master the technology that’s critical to your craft, and don’t let anyone tell you to pipe down.”
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Pauline Ploquin
President, Partner, Struck, 159 Broadway, struck.com

After years overseeing operations and client relationships at Struck and working with every type of brand and medium under the sun, Pauline Ploquin says that she’s proudest of the agency’s consistently high-quality output amid a wildly swinging agency landscape. The agency has cranked out award-winning work for clients like Nickelodeon, Jack in the Box, Snowbird, Kodiak Cakes and the Utah Office of Tourism.

Agility and adaptability are key, explains Ploquin. “Our entire industry needs to evolve and, often, rethink its model. How do we maintain our creative spark while delivering what clients need? We can lean on data and technology, but have to be human-centric first.”

In driving that evolution, Ploquin firmly believes that change comes from the top of an organization. Once Struck’s leadership took notice of the importance of building a more diverse team, the agency went all-in. “I’m proud of our diversity achievements—we’re now at over 50 percent female leadership. To me, this feels congruent on a soul level. You see the difference this makes in our work and in the faces around the office,” Ploquin says.

While she’s learned to systematize progress through internal policy, Ploquin has turned an eye to mentoring and promoting women in the larger agency landscape. Now serving as Chair of the Board for SoDA, a global network of digital agency leaders, Ploquin is making this passion a priority. “It’s on leaders to raise the level of empathy, humility, and sensitivity in our industry and in our culture. We can use our roles to coach, listen, and provide people with the resources for them to shape their paths,” Ploquin explains. “I want to take Struck’s progressive policies beyond our own microcosm.”  

At the end of the day, she says, it’s quite simple: “Be a good human. It’s good for business.”
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Molly Mazzolini
Partner, Director of Brand Integration, Infinite Scale, 16 Exchange Place, infinitescale.com

Long a sports industry devotee, Molly Mazzolini moved to Salt Lake to work as a Brand Manager for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games—and then loved it here too much to leave.

A triple-threat minority—a woman in marketing leadership and also in the sports industry—Mazzolini brushes off anyone who’s surprised by her passion for sports. She co-founded Infinite Scale in 2002 to offer environmental graphic design for athletic venues and events. “It’s amazing to go from the initial stages of drawing up plans to eventually seeing an actual structure or venue come to life,” Mazzolini says. “We get to think about any kind of branded messaging and experience. And, no matter how many stakeholders, it’s ultimately for the sports fan.”

Mazzolini relishes leading the charge for clients who may undertake this kind of project once in their careers. It’s Infinite Scale’s job every day, which means they know to think through every detail and collaborate equally well with sports team owners, architects, venue owners, and others. They boast a client roster including the NHL, PAC-12, Petzl, the UFC and numerous professional sports teams.

An active member of WISE (Women in Sports and Events), Mazzolini helped launch a Utah chapter of WISE last year. She also loves engaging with the Salt Lake community through the Downtown Alliance, which she’s chaired in the past. Mazzolini also co-founded Salt Lake Design Week with Kevin Perry of the local American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and has watched it grow exponentially into an annual highlight of Salt Lake’s agency scene.

As she mentors and networks with other women in the sports industry and creative field, Mazzolini centers on her professional mantra. “I tell those I mentor, ‘Make things easy on the other person in every professional exchange. Detail matters. Polish matters. Branding matters. Be assertive about following up. Help people help you.’ This informs how we work with our own clients every day. Because, when we do it well, we’re helping each other excel.”
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Foodies rejoice! The already thriving food scene downtown is only looking to get better this year. With expansions from out of state as well as Utah favorites, there has never been a better time to take a lunch break or a dinner date. Sprinkle in some boutique shops and the still-growing coworking scene and you’ve got the evolving Downtown SLC we all know and love!

Recently Opened

CommonGrounds Workplace | 132 South State Street
Based in San Diego, CommonGrounds opened its doors on State Street just south of City Creek Center. Offering a number of luxury amenities to its member, it is ideally situated in the heart of downtown.
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Kazé Sushi | 65 East Broadway
Located outside Gallivan Plaza, Kazé recently finished an outdoor patio buildout. It is shaping up to be a perfect addition to the outdoor dining season leading right into the summer concert season at Gallivan.
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Opening Soon

Blue Marlin | 136 East South Temple
This restaurant extension from Sandy offers a variety of sushi rolls and Asian-inspired tapas. It is expected to open early summer at the base of South Temple Tower.

Böhme | At City Creek Center
This Sandy-based retailer specializes in women’s clothing, accessories, and footwear. The trendy boutique will be a welcome addition to City Creek’s already plentiful variety of fashion.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop | 50 East South Temple
Founded in Delaware, Capriotti’s formed to offer a sandwich for “real turkey lovers.” The menu has expanded since then, but the sandwich shop is still known for its fresh-roasted turkey, quality meats and cheese, and fresh rolls and produce.

Carson Kitchen | 241 West 200 South
A popular eatery just off Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Carson Kitchen is expanding to Salt Lake City at the newly-opened Milagro Apartments. This location is expected to open in the fall and carry a tradition of trendy design and innovative, playful interpretations of American comfort food.

Ginger Street | 300 South State Street
You may have noticed the bright pink that appeared recently at the intersection of 300 South and State Street. Ginger Street is scheduled to open in May, bringing Southeast Asian street food to downtown SLC.

Kendra Scott | At City Creek Center
Kendra Scott stores have quickly come to be known for its selection of designer jewelry, home decor, and beauty products. This will be the first store to open in Utah, offering a unique selection of goods.

Nacho Daddy | 241 West 200 South
Another Las Vegas concept going into the Milagro Apartments, Nacho Daddy claims to have the most insane gourmet nachos around, in addition to a full vegan menu and a variety of other Mexican-American collisions. This will be the chain’s second location outside the Las Vegas area when it opens this fall.

Tin Angel at Eccles Theater | 131 South Main Street
Unoccupied since the closing of Hamilton last year, the bistro space inside Eccles Theater was recently awarded to downtown-favorite Tin Angel. Design and buildout are expected to take place through early summer, with an anticipated opening before The Book of Mormon in July. The menu will be a mix of favorites from the current restaurant along with some new additions. We have been assured the bread pudding will be featured!

Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe | At City Creek Center
It’s getting a lot easier to find healthy food options, and that is just what you’ll find at Vitality Bowls. Thick açaí blends and organic granola are the stars of the menu, but you can also find smoothies, fresh juices, soups, salads, and panini.

The Wave | 32 East Exchange Place
Housed in the beautiful, historic Commercial Club building, The Wave strives to provide safe workspace for women. While public spaces are co-ed, at least one floor will be dedicated to feminine-identifying individuals. The first phase includes a renovated ballroom, available for private social and business functions, while future development could potentially activate all seven floors of the building. The opening celebration is anticipated for May.

Zimbu | At City Creek Center
We don’t know too much yet about Zimbu, but we are always in favor of adding some ethnic flair to the food court at City Creek. Zimbu will offer a variety of Nepali and Indian cuisine.

Do you know of a new business I missed? Got a tip of one getting ready to open? Let me know at !

One of downtown’s most highly anticipated projects, the Convention Center Hotel, is slated to break ground later this year and will add to the city skyline when it opens in 2022.
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“The 28-story hotel will feature over 700 rooms, approximately 62,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, lobby bar & lounge, fitness and pool deck with event terrace,” according to Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Erin Litvack. A hotel operator will be announced later this year.

The Convention Center Hotel will be a boon to local businesses, bars, restaurants and contribute to the overall vibrancy of our city.
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With the addition of the Convention Center Hotel and other planned full-service hotels in the vicinity, downtown is poised to attract more high-spend meetings and convention visitors. “This project strengthens the Salt Lake product offering for meetings, conventions and tourism,” said Downtown Alliance Executive Director, Dee Brewer. “The hotel investment will continue to ripple through the city encouraging additional investment in hospitality and other businesses that are an amenity to all and that will enhance the local property and sales tax base.”

Salt Lake County officials are working with Atlanta based Portman Holdings to design and develop the hotel in partnership with St. George based development firm DDRM. The proposed site is located at the southeast plaza corner of the Salt Palace Convention Center. 
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On a sun-dappled July day in 2018, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, staff from the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance and officials from Salt Lake County’s Center for the Arts gathered on Exchange Place Plaza to announce a new partnership. Dubbed THE BLOCKS in reference to our capital city’s famously large city blocks, this collaboration, they explained, was created to showcase downtown Salt Lake City’s broad range of artistic, cultural and entertainment programming. “With its wide variety of venues, audiences and non-stop creative energy, THE BLOCKS offers a quality and consistent experience you cannot get anywhere else in Utah,” Biskupski said.
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THE BLOCKS spans downtown Salt Lake City’s urban core, running from the west side of 600 West to the east side of 400 East, and the north side of North Temple to the south side of 400 South. A smidgen of the offerings and events located within this conveniently compact area include the El Mac & Retna Ave Maria mural (160 E. 200 South) and Jann Haworth’s SLC Pepper mural (250 S. 400 West), the monthly Third Friday Gallery Stroll, the Utah Arts Festival, Abravanel Hall, the Eccles Theatre, the Twilight Concert Series, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, the Craft Lake City DIY Festival, Pride Weekend, the Living Traditions Festival and variety of events celebrating local Greek, the Pacific Island, Italian, Japanese and Hispanic communities. “With experiences ranging from intimate to arena, traditional to contemporary, world-renowned to backyard, structured to spontaneous, highly-refined to cutting-loose, THE BLOCKS is Salt Lake’s Cultural Core,” says Tyler Bloomquist, Downtown Alliance artistic director of the Cultural Core.
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One of the exciting initiatives as part of THE BLOCKS is a mural inside the underpass at 200 West. Earlier this year, THE BLOCKS partnered with the Salt Palace Convention Center to create a community mural in this previously underutilized space. Six local artists—Traci O’Very Covey, Chuck Landvatter, Matt Monsoon, Evan Jed Mammott, Alexis Rose and Jimmi Toro—created 150-foot-wide, paint-by-numbers style mural along the wall of the underpass, which the public was then invited to help fill in during a celebration held in August.
“As Salt Lake City is embracing our new growth and outside interest, we have seen an infrastructural shift to answer the demand for an engaging and inviting urban lifestyle,” Bloomquist says. “With more people living, working, commuting into, and experiencing downtown, now is the ideal time to reimagine our public spaces, forge new collaborations focused on creative problem solving, galvanize our street life, and celebrate our diversity. Now is the time to create the downtown we have always wanted.
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How will this happen? By supporting and championing our creative community.” And while the quality of life benefits downtown Salt Lake’s artistic community provides are likely immeasurable, the economic impacts of our city’s arts offerings are very much quantifiable and play a key role in our state’s financial well-being. According to a study by Americans for the Arts, 7.4 million people attended arts and culture events in Utah in 2015, spending more than $194 million in the process. Furthermore, spending by Utah arts and cultural organizations and their audiences support more than 10,000 jobs.
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“In THE BLOCKS we have great dining, amazing theaters, and interesting visual arts and we want the entire surrounding regional community to know about and experience all this district has to offer,” says Sarah Pearce, division director of Salt Lake County’s Center for the Arts. “This joint effort by Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City is a testament that investing in the arts makes huge impacts both directly and indirectly to the economic vitality of a community. Visual arts can stimulate a lonely alley or abandoned building and performing arts, film and music events attract audiences that spend money not only on tickets but also at surrounding retail, restaurants and bars. And, a community with a vibrant arts scene attracts new visitors, new residents and new businesses.”

So, whether you’re looking for a new gallery, a poetry reading, a play by a celebrated local writer, a performance of a Bach masterpiece, an edgy piece of street art, the nation’s biggest LGBTQ festival, engaging architecture, whetting your pallet with a new cocktail or coffee, creating alongside your kids at a contemporary art museum or simply stumbling across a ballet versus breakdance battle, THE BLOCKS has you covered.

February 27, 2019

Oh My Tech!

The Dreammakers 

SimpleCitizen (370 S. 300 East, simplecitizen.com) co-founder and CEO, Sam Stoddard, was at Brigham Young University studying to get his master’s in accounting degree when he met the woman who would become his wife. When they got married, he assumed her immigration process—she’s from South Korea—would be straightforward: he’d fill out some paperwork, she’d be granted citizenship, and that would be it. The experience, however, turned out to be anything but simple.

Stoddard began by enlisting the help of an attorney, who quoted him $3,000 to help secure his wife’s citizenship—obviously cost prohibitive for a student. So, with his background in tax accounting, Stoddard decided he could fill out the forms himself. Nearly four months later, after completing a stack of paperwork rivaling one of the last Harry Potter volumes, he went back to the attorney to make sure his wife’s application was ready for submittal. Five minutes after glancing over the documents, the attorney assured him he’d done the task correctly and handed him a bill for $500.
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“Sam knew there had to be a better way,” says SimpleCitizen Vice President of Community, Matthew Gale. So, Stoddard created SimpleCitizen—a digital immigration solution designed to streamline the path to citizenship. He pitched the idea at various BYU tech competitions and others across the state, won some grant money, and eventually built the software. Soon after he partnered with company co-founder, CTO and Mexican immigrant, Aydé Soto, a 2018 Women in Tech Finalist by the Women Technology Council and recipient of the 2018 Sego Award for Innovation in Technology.

From their beginnings in Utah County, the team—which in addition to Stoddard and Soto includes third co-founder and CMO, Brady Stoddard—took their talents and technology to BoomStartup, where they raised money from Kickstart Seed Fund and several other investors, ultimately making the pilgrimage to Silicon Valley for three months in 2016 to join Y Combinator, the startup accelerator of Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit fame, just to name a few.  

Gale describes SimpleCitizen as the TurboTax for immigration. “We started three years ago,” he says, “and since then we’ve helped thousands of immigrants in the United States.” In November 2017, SimpleCitizen launched an enterprise product for companies that employs foreigners to automate their immigration paperwork. Between that, word-of-mouth referrals, and Google reviews, SimpleCitizen is disrupting the immigration process in an incredibly positive way.

Launched in Utah County, SimpleCitizen eventually moved to Salt Lake’s Impact Hub and is now located at Church & State, a non-profit business incubator. “We plan to stay in Salt Lake,” Gale says. “We’re innovating immigration and hope to help as many immigrants as possible. We’re on a mission to help people achieve the American dream.”

The Space Between Giving and Receiving

Within a small Main Street workspace, five earnest 20-somethings sit huddled together, their eyes fixed on the glowing screens in front of them. Their task? Coding and collaborating their way to STEM Mentor Exchange, or STEM MX, a web-based platform which will allow K-12 teachers to provide STEM opportunities to students by connecting them with professionals in the field. And while the scene may not seem that out of the ordinary in tech-friendly downtown Salt Lake, the coders building the platform are a bit unexpected: they are students themselves, earning degrees while getting real-world experience at the Neumont College of Computer Science (143 Main St, neumont.edu). “We’re changing lives through education,” says Neumont President Aaron Reed, Ed.D. from his office on the fourth floor of the school’s campus, the Ezra Thompson Building at 143 South Main Street, colloquially known as the old Tribune building. “We love being downtown,” Reed says. “It’s a major recruiting-plus for us and certainly sweetens the pot for students coming here from all over the country.”  
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Approximately 100 students graduate from Neumont every year in degree programs spanning information systems, game development, web design and technology management. As Reed mentioned, more than 80 percent of the student body comes from out of state, and most live in school-sponsored housing downtown, lending their passion to the city’s burgeoning tech scene while getting to take advantage of all that downtown Salt Lake has to offer.

But it’s not only students that Neumont’s staff and faculty hope to impact. “Looking at the numbers, and where things are going on a local, regional and national level, we need more people who code,” Reed says. “The projections at every level show that there are simply not enough computer science or STEM graduates to support the needs of the workplace.”

Which is why students at Neumont get to work on mutually-beneficial projects for businesses and non-profits here and across the country. STEM MX is the result of a collaboration between the college’s Enterprise Partner program and the STEM Partners Foundation, an organization tied to the State of Utah’s STEM Action Center. “When you’re as passionate about computer science education as we are,” Reed says, “you jump on the chance to effect change at every level.”

Solving Problems Yet to Be Realized  

“We believe virtual reality is going to disrupt the way we all work, socialize, and entertain ourselves over the next decade in ways that are hard for many people to imagine right now,” says Matt Wilburn, chief operating officer for Daz Productions, Inc. (224 S. 200 West, daz3D.com) a downtown tech firm redefining the tech space through a passion for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

For the uninitiated, VR immerses users in a fully artificial virtual environment, typically with the use of a VR headset—a technology being used widely in video games and movies. AR, on the other hand, overlays virtual objects onto the real-world environment; an example is the Pokémon Go! craze that swept the world in July 2016. Daz Productions works in both of these realms through two company divisions: Daz 3D and Morph 3D.
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General Manager Berkley Frei explains the work being done at Morph 3D as “solving the problem for everyday people that don’t yet know of the problem that needs to be solved.” Right now, Morph 3D’s state-of-the-art avatar engine is used primarily by developers to create video games, apps, and VR and AR experiences. But as these virtual and augmented worlds expand to the masses, this same avatar engine can be used by consumers. “In our ‘real lives’ we make choices every day about how to present ourselves,” Wilburn says. “It’s no different in virtual worlds: the more you experience VR, the more you’ll want to tailor your appearance and the way you interact with others.” Much like how Blogger and WordPress enabled non-developers to create their own websites, Morph 3D’s avatar engine makes it possible for the average Jane Doe to customize her own avatar for VR.

But, as James Thornton, Daz Productions’ chairman, president and CEO explained, the pathway to getting this technology into the hands of the masses is by forging more business-to-business partnerships; collaborations like Daz Productions, Inc’s recent partnership with Taiwanese consumer electronics company HTC and entertainment giant Warner Bros. to support Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster production of Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One. “We’re providing this technology for multiple platforms, which then gives us access to a much broader audience,” Thornton says.

The Daz 3D side of the business serves professional and recreational artists in more than 200 countries across the globe and has a worldwide customer base totaling tens of thousands.

Daz Productions, Inc. relocated from Draper to downtown Salt Lake City in 2012, a move that Wilburn says has been key in accessing and attracting top creative and software development talent. “We’re waiting for the masses to catch on to the problems we’re solving,” Thornton adds. ”But when they do—and they’re starting to—we’ll access millions of users across the globe, from right here in downtown Salt Lake.”

Admittedly, I’ve never worn a suit. As a woman and telecommuting writer for most of my career, I simply have never felt the need for one. Or, rather, I’ve been able to skirt around (pun intended) buying one with off-the-rack separates when job interviews, funerals and other suit-worthy occasions have arisen. That said, I’m also into clothes and fashion and love that rare and delicious feeling of wearing a garment that—because of the color, fit or even sometimes the mindset I was in when I bought it—makes me feel like my best self when I put it on.

Ask any of the clothiers (never called salespeople) who staff downtown Salt Lake City’s thriving custom suit shops what the biggest benefit of investing the time and money in a custom suit is, and they’re sure to tell you that it’s that “I look great” feeling every time you put it on. “What we’re actually selling is confidence,” says Jason Yeats, co-founder of Main Street custom suit maker, Beckett & Robb. Really? Who couldn’t use a little extra confidence? I know I certainly could. So, with my curiosity piqued, I went about sussing out what the real differences are between a custom suit and one purchased off the rack.

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Express Your Style

Fit is the obvious no-brainer advantage of going the custom suit route. Ask any man over six feet tall or under about 5 feet 4 inches, and they’ll tell you buying a suit off the rack is challenging, to say the least. But getting a just-right fit is really just the beginning. “We always start with a conversation,” says George Spencer, head of shop at Tailor Cooperative, an almost speakeasy-feeling custom suit shop on downtown’s funky Pierpont Avenue. “Before we start looking at fabrics or discussing different styles, I want to find out the client’s intent, the application of the suit, their color preferences, how they want to feel in the suit and find out how they’d like to fit the suit into their existing wardrobe.” Though suits, as a rule, would seem very uniform in terms of style, custom suits actually offer plenty of elements that can become part of what Spencer calls, “your personal brand.”

Take for example the Milanese buttonhole. Back when suit jackets still closed at the top, this left-lapel buttonhole—which now is sometimes used to hold the occasional flower or lapel, but is most often not used for anything at all—was a functioning buttonhole to close the jacket all the way up. (The word boutonniere is in fact the French word for buttonhole.) Some machine-made jackets do have Milanese buttonholes, but the difference between one sewn by a machine and one cut and sewn by tailor—as is the case on a custom suit—is obvious, particularly to those who wear suits. It is a tailoring flourish that lends the cherry-on-top prestige to a jacket.

Other avenues for establishing—and maybe deepening—your personal brand with a custom suit include single versus double-breasted lapels; one, two or three closure buttons; button styles; sleeve buttons; a sack, structured or fitted silhouette; and on and on. The options for customization are really endless, which is why an interaction with a competent clothier should always begin with the conversation Spencer refers to; so that rather than feeling overwhelmed by the choices involved in purchasing a custom suit, the experience feels more like a journey in realizing your own distinct style.        
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Another big difference between custom and ready-to-wear suits is the fabric. Walk into most department stores, and on the racks, you’ll see what sells the best: solid navy, black and gray in either summer or winter weight fabrics. Most custom suit clothiers, however, have thousands of fabrics at their disposal, in types ranging from polyester and linen to wool and tweed and in patterns covering window pane and herringbone to pinstripe and Prince-of-Wales check.

In 2011, Hayden Bryant co-founded H.M. Cole Custom Clothiers, a sleek and formal shop located in the ground level of a white granite office and apartment building on South Temple. Bryant and business partner Michael McKonkie became familiar with custom clothing while working abroad. Bryant and McKonkie also own and operate the overseas manufacturing facility where H.M. Cole suits and clothing separate are made and has direct relationships with fabric merchants allowing access to more than 20,000 fabrics. Speaking of which, Beckett & Robb recently expanded their bulk cloth offerings to several lines made in Italy, enabling them to offer these high-end fabrics at the best possible price.  

For the first-time custom suit buyer, there’s a couple of simple rules of thumb: if you’re looking for a suit wearable year-round, go with a lightweight worsted wool. For a winter-only suit, go for tweed, flannel or a more insulating wool. And for summer (think what you’d wear to a wedding), try fabrics such as linen, silk or cotton.

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No doubt, the price difference between an off-the-rack suit (beginning at about $400) and a custom suit (starting around $600 to $700) is significant. But how long a custom suit will last versus many off-the-rack suits is significant as well, due almost exclusively to canvasing.

Custom suit jackets are lined with an extremely stiff linen fabric called canvas, which is cut to the jacket’s shape and then stitched directly to the underside of the exterior fabric. This lining holds the shape of the jacket and keeps it from sagging or deforming over time. Canvasing is also responsible for hallmark details of a well-made suit like a lapel that curls over the chest rather than creasing.   

Many off-the-rack suit manufacturers no longer used canvas and instead glue a fusible interlining to the wool shell of the suit. Over time, this glue tends to degrade and may become unstuck after multiple cleanings and/or pressings and causes the fabric to bubble, i.e. ripple around the chest and lapels. Unfortunately there’s no way to fix this problem once it has occurred. “Educating our clients about canvassing is just part of the services we offer when they come to us for a piece of custom clothing,” Yeats, from Main Street’s Beckett & Robb, says. “We consider ourselves style consultants and engage in our clients’ entire wardrobe to give them versatility to last a long time.”

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Custom Suit Converts

So, beyond the banking crowd, who’s fueling the on-fire trend for custom suits? Well, really any man—and many more women than you’d expect—in the market for a go-to quality suit that, as we referenced earlier, makes them feel fantastic every time they put it on.

Luke Mirabelli will be graduating from medical school in May and recently purchased a custom suit to wear to the residency interviews he’ll be embarking on this fall and into the future in his career as a doctor. But the purchase also represents something of a fulfillment of a family legacy for him as well. “My grandfather was the master tailor at Utah Woolen Mills for 40 years, and made custom clothing for many of Utah’s elite back in the day,” Mirabelli says. “Unfortunately he passed before I was born. Therefore, I wanted to have the custom experience that I am sadly never going to get from my grandfather.”     

Chris Neihart, co-owner of Premier Equestrian in Sandy, decided to buy his first custom suit to wear to his wedding this fall because, “I’m six feet six inches tall, so off the rack clothing can be hit or miss regarding the fit,” he says. How a custom suit allows design options like color, fabric, liner, fit and buttons not available when purchasing off-the-rack also appealed to him. And while he doesn’t expect too many occasions where he’ll wear the full suit after his wedding day—his chose a super-dapper emerald green fabric—“I look forward to wearing the sport coat with a nice and jeans.”

And, what about me, you ask? After embarking on this custom suit quest, I’ve become a convert as well and am planning a visit to one of downtown’s clothiers to very soon fulfill my own dreams of joining the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit.  

Where to Suit Up, Downtown

Utah Woolen Mills
59 S Temple

Beckett & Robb
150 Main St

Bespoke Custom Clothing
145 E. 900 South

H.M. Cole
136 E. South Temple

Ferreira European Custom Tailor
132 W. Pierpont Ave
(801) 462-5533

Tailor Cooperative
335 Pierpont Avenue

True Gentleman Custom Suits
281 South Weechquootee Place

2018 saw plenty of new retail businesses popping up downtown, and 2019 is shaping up to be no different. While there wasn’t a lot of action in the first month of the year, we’ll start to see a lot of openings as we come closer to the summer season. Keep an eye out for a followup on some of the upcoming businesses we’ve shared in the past, as well as announcements of even more!

Recently Opened

George + Bar George | 327 West 200 South
A staple in the downtown dining scene for close to five years, Finca shut its doors at the end of November. Never fear, because it was immediately replaced by two new sister concepts, a restaurant and bar with a shared name. George and Bar George still offer some of your favorite small plates from the old Finca, but have refreshed the menu with some new, simpler comfort food options.
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Sicilia Mia | 10 East Broadway
The long-awaited addition to the Sicilia Mia family of restaurants opened downtown just in time for the holidays. The quaint eatery serves up a menu of traditional Sicilian recipes passed down for generations. While the whole menu is tantalizing, perhaps the biggest draw to the restaurant is carbonara finished tableside in a giant, flaming wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Of course, you’ll definitely want to finish off your meal with some house-made tiramisu!
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Torrent Cycle | 252 East Broadway
The boutique cycling studio opened at the start of December, making it a perfect way to keep up with New Year’s resolutions. In case you need some motivation to keep up with your fitness, the chic workout space offers classes starting at 6:00 am during the week, perfect to get in and out before work. Check out their schedule online and find a class that works for you!
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Opening Soon

Chedda Burger | At The Gateway
The popular burger chain is moving its first location on 600 South, finding a new home at The Gateway. Chedda Burger is known for its clever burger creations utilizing quality ingredients as well as its infamous chedda tots. You can also finish (or start) your meal off with a variety of tasty shakes.

CommonGrounds Workplace | 132 South State Street
Coworking spaces are sweeping the nation, and they are finding a home in Salt Lake City as well. Based in San Diego, CommonGrounds is getting ready to open on State Street just south of City Creek Center. You can work with them to customize your workspace, with plenty of opportunity to scale as your business grows.

Honest Eatery | On Regent Street
You can already find Honest during Jazz games at Vivint SmartHome Arena, but you’ll soon be able to get it more often at its first storefront on Regent Street. Set to open at the end of February, the eatery will offer a variety of healthy food options. Açaí bowls and toasts will headline the menu, with other featured items including Brazilian cheese bread and chia pudding.

Steyk Center | 207 East Broadway
The team behind the Tavernacle Social Club recently acquired the space next door vacated by Now & Again. True to the Tavernacle theme, the name is a play off a Latter-Day Saint stake center as the fare is said to be a mix of “Mormon favorites” and pub classics. We’ll see how this one develops leading up to their anticipated St. Patrick’s Day opening.

The Store | At The Gateway
With an ever-growing residential population, downtown will welcome another local grocer with open arms. The west side will soon be served by The Store, a grocery store well-known for its quality selection, including a number of local brands. The location, expected to open in the spring, will feature a bakery and expanded deli with ample seating space.

Do you know of a new business I missed? Got a tip of one getting ready to open? Let me know at !