Why State Street Needs an Arc de Triomphe

Joshua Stewart

State Street is the perfect place for re-development.  It’s the historic core of Salt Lake County, connects numerous cities, and terminates with a view of the beautiful State Capital.  Now is the time to maximize existing infrastructure and make State Street into a grand, beautiful urban walkable corridor.  One of the keys is for UDOT to allow a reduction in car lanes on State Street so the street can be slower speed, less dangerous to cross, more beautiful with shade trees, and more pedestrian friendly.  As this happens it will redevelop with more family friendly residential and begin to transform its character. 

Paris Arc De Triomphe Night2

Jump start State’s redevelopment with something cool - like a large beautiful monument that is on axis with the State capital (think Arc de Triomphe in Paris).  Re-make State Street into a beautiful multi-way boulevard.  While economically the land is going to be more expensive than farmland in surrounding counties, the State Legislature can incentivize this smart growth by buying the land along State Street (with Gas Tax revenue) and re-making it into something better reflective of the “State Street” moniker. 

The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) has studied the transformative impact of new Boulevards.  Built in 2002, the new Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco was built in the footprint of the old Central Freeway and was designed to be both visually appealing and pedestrian friendly.  Planners also included a new park, Patricia’s Green, as well as generous tree-lined pedestrian walkways. Before the destruction of the Central Freeway, condominium prices in the Hayes Valley neighborhood were 66% of San Francisco average prices. However, after the demolition and subsequent replacement with the new Octavia Boulevard, prices grew to 91% of city average. Beyond this, the most dramatic increases were seen in the areas nearest to the new boulevard. Furthermore, residents noted a significant change in the nature of the commercial establishments in the area. Where it had been previously populated by liquor stores and mechanic shops, soon the area was teeming with trendy restaurants and high-end boutiques.

Tourists flock to great urban walkable cores and State Street connects city after city with a potential for each to be a charming jewel along a beautiful necklace of valley towns and cities.  The legislature re-located the prison, why not re-locate auto oriented uses and acres of asphalt in favor of a more beautiful walkable street that will invite people to live along this well-connected corridor? 

Napoleon I, who initially proposed the Arc de Triomphe, had an ambition to make the capital of his empire the most beautiful city in the world.  It took 30 years, along with imperial defeat and invasion, before the plans of the Arc de Triomphe became reality.  Let’s not wait 30 years to transform State Street.  Like the thousands that circle around the Arc de Triomphe for cycling’s Tour de France, let’s envision the Tour of Utah racing along a new and triumphal State Street.  And when we build that State Street monument, be sure it has an observation deck so our grandchildren can appreciate State Street’s transformation! 

About the Author: Josh Stewart is an architect and urban designer with over 20 years of experience working on transit and community designs. He lives in Salt Lake City.