Salt Lake City Japantown project in “idea phase”

Mar 20, 2024, 7:00 AM

The north side of 100 South housed many Japanese-owned businesses until it was demolished to make w...

The north side of 100 South housed many Japanese-owned businesses until it was demolished to make way for the Salt Palace in the mid-1960s. (Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

(Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Japantown community leaders are working with Salt Lake City leaders to make 1st South a place that preserves their history while supporting downtown development plans.

The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City met Tuesday to unveil this vision, full of art, benches, trees, and monuments that honor Japanese culture. 

Senior Project Manager Corinne Piazza says they’re pursuing a shared vision of celebrating Japantown on that street, with a streamlined walkway and some added features.

The plans to make the area “a place of gathering, senses, and intrinsic beauty,” according to Piazza, are still in the idea phase. 

Whatever happened to Japantown? 

Japantown isn’t a new concept. Piazza said the original twenty-block community was decimated to make way for the Salt Palace in the 1960s. 

After this, Japantown became “more of an alleyway than an important space to be activated,” Piazza said. 

In 2018, the Redevelopment Agency began the West Quarter project that aimed to create a parking structure on 1st South. The parking structure is part of a downtown master plan to support the Salt Palace, Delta Center, and other options. 

Piazza said that since they erected a parking structure there, Japantown leaders worried they would lose their significance. 

The ultimate vision of Japantown 

According to the Redevelopment Agency’s agenda, the new plan is to help reactivate Japantown as a community center. They want it to meet the needs of institutions like the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple. They also want Japantown to act as a gathering place for festivals such as Obon, Nihon Matsuri and Aki Matsuri

Piazza said that the plan includes goals to support walkability, gathering spaces, and historical preservation.

“Japantown’s vision and goals [are to] preserve future economic development and tourism opportunities for the community, allow the churches to grow and thrive, and preserve create something for future generations of Japanese Americans,” she said. 

They have created a design strategy meant to unfold Japantown’s future in three phases. 

“Each phase builds towards the final vision,” Piazza said. “[That] includes elements of each type of prioritized improvement so that the community may see tangible progress in each area,” Piazza said. 

The project is expected to cost 7.5 million dollars. The Redevelopment Agency hasn’t secured full funding. 

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Salt Lake City Japantown project in “idea phase”