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Sugar House Journal

A question on everyone’s mind: what’s happening to Shopko?

Jan 27, 2017 15h17 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Shopko has been a long-time member of Sugar House since 1990. (Natalie Mollinet/City Journals.)

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]


It came as a surprise to many Sugar House residents to see the “closing” sign draped across Shopko. Since then, curiosity of what will replace the long-time store have been a hot topic in the neighborhood. Many have spoken up about what they think should go there, everything from another “big box” store, to a fun center, to another apartment building.

“I think it needs to be a convention center to host nerdy events, Sundance stuff and other things,” Josh Christensen, a resident commented.

“A community center for Sugar House!” Jensen Morgan, another resident commented.

“There’s already enough Targets and Wal Marts and chain stores,” Jason Berntson commented. “Let’s find a way to encourage business in Sugar House.”

 So, what happened to Shopko and what is going to happen with the building?  

 Sometime last year Westport Capital Partners LLC, a company that buys distressed properties,  saw the Shopko building as an investment and bought it. They told Shopko they could be there as long as they’d like but, to Shopko’s surprise, Westport was ready to make the changes to the Shopko lot. Shopko was given till the end of January to move out, unless their merchandise went first. While this was all being done, Westport with the help of Wilkinson Ferrari & Co., a community engagement consultant, reached out to those in Sugar House to get input on what changes should be made to the block. In December, a survey was posted online at where residents and those around the area could answer questions so ideas could be narrowed down.

After about a month of the survey being online, the results have come in, and along with the survey, Wilkinson Ferrari & Co. went and visited businesses and restaurants in the area to see what they believe would help the community as well.

 There really isn’t a limit to what can’t be done to the property — except how tall the structure can be — so community input was needed in the decision process. Westport, as well as city leaders, see a lot of potential in the Shopko block with its easy freeway access and good location.

The questions went as followed and this is what respondents of the survey said:

Q1: What are the best things about living/working in Sugar House?

15.9% - The quaint neighborhoods
15.5% - Parks
15.4% - Restaurants
15. 2% - Central Location
14.6% - Walkable
11.9% - Shops
10.0% - Live, work, play, community
1.5% -  Other

According to the results many said that they want to keep the local town feel but think improving services are important. There is a lot to do in the area which makes it a very desirable neighborhood to live in.

Q2: What words best describe Sugar House for you?

19.3% - Congested
17.9% - Vibrant
17.0% - Mixed use
15.8% - Historic
10.4% - Safe
5.9% - Modern
5.9% - Scenic
5.0% - Commercial
2.7% - Other

Q3: What changes would be most helpful to Sugar House’s continued success?

The most popular suggestion was “better traffic circulation” followed by “better landscaping/more greenery.” The traffic includes pedestrian traffic. Many have expressed that streets like Highland Drive have become crowded as Sugar House has grown. Wilkinson Ferrari & Co. are seeing traffic as one of the major concerns from residents and are taking that into account when putting together data for the project.

Q4: What new services/amenities would be most beneficial for Sugar House?

25.2% - Locally-Owned Retail
16.6% - Neighborhood Parks
15.4% - Restaurants, Fine Dining
9.4% - Grocery Stores
9.2% - Employment Opportunities
6.2% - Childcare Services
5.1% - Restaurants – Fast Food
5.0% - Drop-in Workspaces
4.7% - Big Box Stores
3.1% - Business Services

Many businesses surrounding the area, including restaurants, have been asking for some daytime users. These are the types of people who can walk to the restaurants and have lunch and not have to drive there. Many have also said that creating an underground parking structure would alleviate some of the traffic and could really help add to parking in the area.

Q5: What would make the entrance in Sugar House from I-80 more inviting?

32.4% - Landscaping
25.6% - Gateway Arch/Pedestrian Bridge
21.3% - Public Art Installation
8.9% - Other
6.6% - Wayfinding Signs
5.3% - Monument

The study was looking for something that would let people know they were coming into Sugar House as they exited I-80 onto 1300 East. More greenspace has been wanted by those in the area, so it’s no surprise that landscaping was a top option.

Wilkinson Ferrari & Co. were impressed with the number of people who took the survey. They on average only get about 500 people to take their surveys, but for the Shopko survey, they had over 2,500 people.

The only fear from community and business leaders is that the building will remain empty for too long and will invite criminal mischief. As of right now, Wilkinson Ferrari & Co. and Westport will show this data to city leaders, and a decision is set to be made sometime this spring.

For more information, see