The LDS Church apparently listened.
Urged by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and City Council Chairwoman Jill Remington Love to speak up about their plans for downtown, church officials are publicly meeting with council members today to discuss at least one of their redevelopment projects.
And LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, who is in charge of the church’s $500 million downtown strategy, is meeting privately with Anderson and Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie earlier in the day.
“They’re being responsive to a request by elected officials to do this briefing in public,” Love said of the council meeting. “I don’t think they were ever trying to hide anything.”
The church has been negotiating to buy the Triad Center, 305 W. North Temple, and will lay out its plans to use the complex to teach college students.
Church officials declined to comment Monday. But Beattie said the church’s Triad purchase has accelerated plans to bring 4,000 students downtown to attend LDS Business College and Brigham Young University Salt Lake Center.
The church previously had announced those two campuses would relocate to new centers built on parking lots east of Triad. Beattie didn’t know if the Triad purchase means the church will not use the blocks between West Temple and 300 West and North Temple and South Temple as part of the education complex or if the Triad will be used to temporarily house students while new buildings are under construction.
Beattie said it would have taken church officials two to three years to construct the new campuses.
“Since they bought this [Triad], they’re ready to start putting students in. It’s education now instead of three years down the road.”
Church officials have said the number of students would grow as the campuses expand. Some have put the eventual number between 10,000 and 20,000.
There is a chance the church also will discuss — or at least be asked about — its redevelopment progress on the downtown Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center malls.
Pressure has been mounting for church officials to be more forthcoming, especially as it buys more property downtown.
Love told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month that she planned to request a public briefing with church officials because constituents are curious, some even concerned, about what the church has in mind. Last week, Anderson said non-Mormons fear downtown may become an LDS version of Vatican City. The mayor said the church might ease fears if it shares more information.
Beattie doesn’t believe today’s meetings are related to statements by the mayor or Love.
“Mayor Anderson makes all kinds of interesting statements and everybody just reacts to them. He’s saying we need more than just LDS apartments or just LDS businesses. For heaven’s sake, I certainly agree with that.”
Councilman Eric Jergensen, who has had private meetings with church representatives, said fears of downtown’s “Vaticanization” are “highly exaggerated.” He said other demographic groups besides LDS students attending the church campuses will live downtown.
As for the malls, “I don’t believe for a minute the church is trying to create something that only church members would come to. To make economic as well as community sense, they’re going to need to have something that’s very broad. ‘Very broad’ is going to be circumscribed by the values espoused by the LDS Church.”
Meaning, the church probably won’t include night clubs on its blocks or allow restaurants to serve liquor.
But other developers of nearby property will fill that niche, Jergensen said.
The LDS Church already owns offices in the Triad Center. Its KSL-TV and radio stations are located there. To buy the actual building, the church had to go through the state to take on the responsibility of managing the state’s historic Devereaux Mansion and Carriage House, which are on the Triad Center block.
Keith Stepan, director of the state Division of Facilities Construction and Management, said the church took over management of the Devereaux “a couple weeks ago.”