NY Times: Huge Church project renews downtown, and debate

For many devout Mormons, Utah’s capital city is important mainly as a setting for the jewel that really matters: Temple Square at the city’s center. Brigham Young, the pioneer leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, laid out the urban grid with street numbers starting at the temple. The secular world was thus defined by the sacred core.

City Creek Center, expected to be completed in 2012, will include 20 acres of retail shops and about 700 apartments.

But now a hugely ambitious, $1 billion church-financed redevelopment project near the temple, called City Creek Center, and a wave of recent church property purchases in the vicinity are prompting a new debate inside the church community and out over where the line between culture and economics should be drawn.

Some residents say the church, by opening its checkbook in a recession, rescued the city when times got tough. The 1,800 construction jobs at City Creek alone have provided a big local economic cushion. Completion of the project — 20 acres of retail shops and residential towers — is scheduled for 2012.

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