Mayor Marcus Stevenson's Monthly Message (September 2023)
Midvale Main: How We Plan to Revitalize Main Street
A Brief Main Street History
When Midvale City was established in 1909, Main Street was its heart. With the smelter to its west, Main Street became the home to smelter offices, banks, restaurants, and shopping, with the homes in the Avenues neighborhood built for the industrial workers.
Once I-15 was constructed, Main Street was no longer a viable north-south route. The freeway drew traffic away from Main Street and cut off access from the rest of the city that had since expanded to the east. Main Street businesses, therefore, saw a decline in both foot and vehicular traffic. Since then, Main Street has struggled to stay vibrant and support its many local businesses.
Modern Day Challenge
Main Street can be described as a “chicken and egg” situation. What comes first, public investments into the street or private investments into the buildings? Because most of the buildings along Main Street are privately owned, Midvale City cannot force a property owner to invest in a building or bring in a specific tenant. For years, the private property owners have asked Midvale City to invest in the public side of the street: art, parking, lighting, etc. so they can bring in tenants and be successful. At the same time, Midvale City has asked property owners to invest in revitalizing their buildings and bring in tenants, so the City would have more tax dollars to invest in the public side of the street. In short, we’ve waited for building owners to make the street successful, and they’ve waited for Midvale City to do the same.
A Recent Solution
Fortunately, at the beginning of 2022, Salt Lake County and Canyons School District voted, and approved, to help fund the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) of Midvale City’s Main Street project area. An RDA allows cities to encourage development in areas where the market has struggled to naturally do so. To help spark development, a project area shifts newly generated property taxes from their usual uses into the project area. As an example, on your property taxes, you pay amounts each year to the school district, county, city, public safety, etc., but if you own property in the Main Street project area, then a portion of your property tax is re-routed and reinvested directly back into the project area. That property tax is then used to encourage development, revitalization, and support affordable housing initiatives. Turning Main Street into a project area gives our city the resources to start investing in the street in a significant way.
Revitalization Efforts & Plans
Midvale’s goal is to turn Main Street into an arts & culture district, while keeping the same historic feel, investing in current and future businesses, and creating a space where all income levels can own a business and live in the area.
In 2020, the Midvale City Council approved what’s called Form Based Code, which focused on street design, building types, open space, landscaping, and parking. Specifically, along the street this code ensures that new development brings in a similar style to the older buildings on the street: up against the street, store fronts on the street level, and apartments above. This code is the guide for how Main Street will progress and is the foundation for our many revitalization efforts.
Now that this area is an RDA, the City has been investing heavily in the public side of the street to make Midvale Main a place where residents, businesses, and visitors can enjoy. These improvements are designed to bring a strong sense of place to the street and encourage private investment in new local shops and restaurants.
Here are just some of the ways Midvale City is investing in the public side of Midvale Main:
- Public Art – Midvale has invested in murals withLos Muros on Main: Midvale City Mural Festival. We now have 33 murals along the street, which helps improve the feel and safety of the street.
- Community events – Along with the mural festival, Midvale hosts Trick or Treat on Main Street for Halloween, and Light Up Main Street for the winter holidays. Additionally, we’ve partnered with private groups for both the Main Street Car Show and the Tattoo Showdown. We are always looking for new opportunities to bring visitors to our street.
- City Hall Plaza – an important piece of the Main Street puzzle, is ensuring that both ends of the street are activated. This is part of the reason why we are building a plaza on the north side of City Hall, which will act as a year-round community space, and host the Utah Food Truck League throughout the summers. The plaza is expected to be completed early next year.
- Street lighting – it’s critical that the street feels safe and unique, which is why we are investing in better lighting. We will be installing festival-type lighting, which can be used on a day-to-day basis, and for the events we hold. String lighting that drapes across the street is one example of lighting we are looking at, which is expected to be installed early next year.
- Street & sidewalk design – to help slow down cars, we’ve recently added bulb outs onto the street. This is where you expand the sidewalk further into the street, and then you can activate this space, usually with outdoor dining. This not only better engages the street but helps slow down drivers on the road. You can see a bulb out example in front of Tres Gatos Coffee.
- Parking – While we have a focus of tying the surrounding neighborhoods directly into Main Street, we also recognize that we need to ensure adequate parking. Midvale has long-term plans for three above-ground parking structures adjoining the street, to support future businesses, residents, and visitors. The process of designing these parking structures is expected to start next year.
Midvale is also incentivizing private property owners to invest in their buildings. Here’s how:
- Façade Improvement Program – earlier this year, Midvale City approved a new grant program to help property owners improve their storefront, signage, and landscaping. As an example, restoring the Vincent Drug sign would not be an easy or cheap thing to do, but this program gives the private building owner an option to apply for funds to restore the historic signage, which will help transform the way Main Street looks and feels.
- Small Business Loan Program – this program gives low-interest loans to businesses to help remodel their buildings. The Pearl, a theater on Main Street, was approved a loan that they’ve been using to invest in remodeling their building. This program helps ensure that the existing businesses can keep up with the progress being made on the street and that the City can attract the right businesses to activate the street.
- Upper Floor Housing Initiative – this program is focused on ensuring the housing along the street remains affordable. These funds are used to keep current and future units affordable by incentivizing property owners to provide units at below market rate. As the street progresses, this program will help keep affordability in place for both current and future residents.
While Midvale Main still has many more years of revitalization to go, things are moving in the right direction. I hope our residents will remain excited, while also patient, as we work to revitalize this area in a way that honors its history and supports the diverse businesses that have called Main Street home for many years.
Midvale Main Walk & Talk – September 15 at 5:30 p.m.
If you’d like to learn more about our plans for Midvale Main, please join city staff and I for a Midvale Main Walk & Talk, in conjunction with Coffee (or whatever you drink) with the Mayor on September 15. This will be an opportunity for residents to get an in-depth view of our revitalization efforts and have your questions about our efforts answered. We’ll start at Tres Gatos Coffee at 5:30 and then work our way down the street as we talk about the past, present, and future of our historic Main Street.