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The vibe is back in downtown Salt Lake City

Published: 08/31/2014
By TONY SEMERAD, The Salt Lake Tribune -- They are young, diverse, mobile, socially aware and part of a long-sought transformation in Utah’s urban core.

Twenty-somethings are driving a residential boom in the heart of Salt Lake City, with thousands of new apartments, condominiums and town homes being built to cater to the living needs of these so-called millennials.

Utah’s younger demographics, its sturdy job market and a blossoming tech sector have combined with a light-rail system and premier outdoor and cultural attractions to lure a large share of this generation to the state’s capital.

The rise in city dwellers is helping to revitalize downtown and fulfill a dream of municipal leaders to bolster the metro-residential population base.

"It’s pretty exciting to see," said David Everett, chief of staff to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "You can have people visiting and working downtown, but it’s not the same."

As downtown millennials go, Guy Warner is not atypical.

The 30-year-old condo resident and his young family take TRAX, ride bikes or walk to traverse the city’s long blocks. He frequents the Twilight Concert Series in Pioneer Park and Craft Lake City at the Gallivan Center. A weekend might find the couple at favorite neighborhood bars like Junior’s Tavern or Keys on Main.

"We like downtown for the night life," said Warner, a Web developer who grew up in St. George. It’s worth commuting to Orem for work each day, he said, to be close to a surging urban vibrancy.

Warner and other millennials say they connect personally with what they see as Salt Lake City’s more liberal sensibility, especially when compared with the rest of the Beehive State. Utah’s capital hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the mid-1970s, opting instead for left-leaning politicos such as Becker and his predecessor, Rocky Anderson.

"The reason why I’m so attracted to Salt Lake is the progressive ideas," explained Isabel Mejia, a 29-year-old nutritionist and Los Angeles transplant who runs her own consulting company and lives downtown. "Even on things as simple as recycling or farmers markets and caring about being green, I definitely think Salt Lake is leading the way."