How the Green Loop pop-up park is reimagining downtown Salt Lake City

The Green Loop demonstration project offers an opportunity to imagine what a new park might look like in the middle of a street.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Green Loop pop-up park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

About a month ago, a cluster of about 190 trees emerged at the center of 200 East in downtown Salt Lake City.

Food trucks, fairy lights, a shipping container with a Friends of the City Library bookstore, and a badminton court all fit into the tiny forest, which is made up of a dozen different species of trees, from Akebono flowering cherries to Plains cottonwoods.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City’s Green Loop on Saturday, June 3, 2023. The city is taking public feedback on creating compact green spaces on downtown streets.

This middle street pop-up park between 300 South and 400 South will close at the end of the week (June 10). The city will turn off the lights and find permanent locations for the trees, but that won’t be the end of the project.

Over the next year, several different Salt Lake City departments will be reviewing the survey results and making plans for what an ambitious new downtown “green cycle” might look like.

Creating green space for a growing part of the city

“There’s very little green space downtown for residents,” said Nancy Monteith, senior landscape architect for Salt Lake City. “And now that we’re growing so rapidly, the need for green space continues to grow.”

A needs analysis conducted by the Public Land Department in 2019 found that downtown had the least green space per capita, Monteith noted.

However, finding space for a new park downtown is a challenge. Land is becoming more and more expensive and competition with property developers is fierce.

However, the wide streets of Salt Lake City offer a possible solution. Green Loop Park would convert part of the road, turning it into a linear park that could total 60 acres of forest.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Artwork in Salt Lake City’s Green Loop on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

The Green Loop project could also help combat the “heat island effect,” according to Monteith, by planting more trees on streets that currently lack sources of shade.

People may have a hard time imagining what such a public space might look and feel like – or how it would affect traffic. The pop-up park offers residents a chance to touch and experience (and provide feedback) the Green Loop before the project begins.

Funding is currently available for project planning, but not yet for construction.

A collaborative planning process

“Part of what makes this project so unique,” ​​said Transportation Manager Jon Larsen, “and challenging, but also a great opportunity, is the fact that it’s really cross-departmental, unlike any other project I’ve seen. “

Tom Millar, head of planning at the Department of Public Lands, added: “Every time we break down these silos, the results are really cool because we get to rethink the entire space that ultimately belongs to everyone.”

The pop-up also allowed the city to call in the fire department and test if there was room for their larger trucks to navigate in the event of a fire. “And all of this information is critical for us as we move forward,” said Monteith.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Double-neck guitarist Terence Hansen performs at the Green Loop in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

Cars are also getting slower

The demonstration park “immediately made people aware of what you can do with the road,” said Larsen.

He also noticed that the cars cruising around the pop-up park have slowed down – partly because the road is narrower, but also because “it’s just this beautiful, human-centric, and scale place. “

“I like to say that the best traffic calming comes when the road is so beautifully designed that you don’t even realize you’re slowing down,” Larsen said.

Salt Lakers and visitors still have a few days to experience the pop-up park.

  • On Wednesday, June 7, there will be live music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again in the evening from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m

  • Local musicians will be playing Saturday nights from 5pm to 10pm and Bella Pizza will have a food truck.

For more information on the Green Loop plan, pop-up park schedule, and how to take the demonstration survey, click here.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Visitors can view the food and entertainment at Salt Lake City’s Green Loop Pilot on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

Justin Scaccy

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