Trolley Square to be Completed by Summer 2010

Originally converted in 1971, Trolley Square symbolized the exuberance of the days when Trolley cars roamed the streets of Salt Lake City. It has always been a landmark shopping venue where the community could gather and browse through an eclectic assortment of retail shops, socialize in the mall’s wide corridors, or dine in one of the fine restaurants.

During the past four years, Trolley Square has undergone a major renovation project that is slated to be completed later this year. While there will be a number of changes and additions, the finished product will boast the same historic look and feel that has always been characteristic of the mall since the early days.

Trolley Square is currently owned by ScanlanKemperBard Companies (SDK) a real estate investment firm based in Portland, Oregon. SKB has renovated a number of historical sites and Trolley Square has been one of their most comprehensive projects.

In 1990, Trolley Square was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of the rich history of many of the mall’s features. The Landmarks Commission closely oversees the renovation of any property or landmark with historical significance to ensure that they are well preserved.

“In addition to the Landmark Commission, we presented our plans to the Architectural Department at the University of Utah,” said Bob Scanlan. “The department’s instructors and architecture students all responded favorably to our plans.”

The company’s development team has been busily involved in the renovation project which started on the inside with some long overdue seismic reinforcements and electrical upgrades. They remodeled the inside to make it more convenient for patrons to walk throughout the mall’s corridors. The development team has also been revitalizing the grounds around the mall using more sustainable landscaping and incorporating a new type of irrigation system that captures ground water.

During the remodel, crews carefully dismantled the historic Sand House that was also home to a Wells Fargo branch. The bricks from the structure have been numbered and tucked away. They will be used when crews rebuild the Sand House in its new location.

Some of the more alluring pieces include the iconic water tower and the Trolley car-turned-café. The water tower was originally going to be moved as part of the renovation, but the developers have decided to leave it where it is. The Trolley car is being preserved and will likely be put on display as an attraction inside the plaza instead of housing an eating establishment.

“I’m trying to figure out the best way to keep it on the site,” said Jay Fetherston, SKB senior vice president and member of the development team. “Right now I’m looking at three different plans for where to relocate it.”

When the project is complete, the owners anticipate that Trolley Square will have the same atmospheric vitality and appeal that it had prior to the renovation. The community will once again be able to gather and enjoy the historic scenery and variety of shops and food service venues.

Part of the renovation included a transportation study to evaluate access points around the mall. In this case, there will be no modifications to the routes accessing the parking lots. However, there will be additional walkways around the square to better accommodate the foot traffic in the area. The bridge with the brightly illuminated Trolley car that spans 600 South is also staying put.

The movie theaters there were once part of the Trolley Square experience have been gone for some time due to the increased demand for stadium seating and higher quality audio systems. It’s unlikely that movie theaters will return to the mall, but developers are talking with several entertainment-oriented businesses about occupying the former theater building.

Most of the mall’s stores, restaurants, and attractions (including the Wiseguys Comedy Club) will remain following the re-development project. The largest addition is a free-standing Whole Foods store which will serve as one of the mall’s anchor stores. Whole Foods will encompass 40,000 square feet of the building that includes an adjoining 17,000 square feet for smaller retailers. Another 30,000 square feet of retail space has been added directly above the new parking garage. The new additions will sport a similar façade that appears on the existing structures.

“We have gone to considerable lengths and expense to preserve the historical pieces and character that has always been a part of Trolley Square because we know it’s important to the community,” said Fetherston. “In fact, the development team spent six hours discussing where to display the famous Trolley Square Christmas tree.”

A list of shops, restaurants, and features is available on the Trolley Square Web site at The site includes a panoramic rendition of the redevelopment on the Development Preview page.

By Salt Lake Digs Contributor, David Jensen

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