Salt Lake City Small Business Owners Strain Under Construction, Grants Provide Little Relief
The end of July marked a significant milestone in Salt Lake City as the construction on 300 West finally concluded after two laborious years. However, the city is not resting as new plans are already in place for 2024, where construction will begin on 2100 South from 700 to 1300 East. Long-term construction projects like these, although essential for infrastructural development, have forced some Salt Lake business owners to make drastic changes.
Jamaica Trinnaman, the owner of Hello! Bulk Markets, situated at 1185 South 300 West, has experienced firsthand the challenges brought on by persistent construction. Having been at the location for almost two years, a staggering year and a half was overshadowed by construction work that blocked parking, causing an instant 30% drop in revenue. A loss from which Trinnaman says the business “never recovered.”
To alleviate some of the burden, the Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development offers a construction mitigation grant of up to $3,000. The grant is intended to “enhance marketing, promotion, finance to help keep bringing customers into the business,” as explained by project manager Will Wright. Unfortunately, the grant is not meant to replace lost revenue, a fact that has left businesses like Trinnaman’s struggling.
Despite applying for the program three times and receiving a total of $9,000, Trinnaman found the support insufficient, stating, “that’s not enough,” as the business lost $9,000 in revenue just in the first three weeks of the project. The financial strain forced Trinnaman to take up a second job, cut back on staff hours, offer subleases to other tenants, and even start a GoFundMe campaign to keep the business afloat.
Emily Larsen, owner of the consignment store Home Again, took a different approach. Faced with the impending construction on 2100 South, Larsen decided to relocate her business to Millcreek from its previous location in Sugar House. The move was prompted by the realization that the construction would drastically reduce access to her store’s parking, rendering it inoperable.
Larsen was quite straightforward about the impact, stating, “If you can’t access my parking, there’s no way I can operate a store under those conditions. So I knew I needed to make a change.”
The move, though necessary, was not without its challenges. Since relocating to Highland Drive in April, Larsen found her business “down $30,000 from last July to this July.” The downturn has prevented her from hiring additional staff or even paying herself. Larsen’s story emphasizes the inadequacy of the construction mitigation grant, which she believes won’t “fix the problem” in the long term.
Despite the hardships, Larsen found some positives in her new location, including better security, more space, and improved value for money. However, the timeline of construction was simply too extended for her to endure.
For Trinnaman, the struggle continues as she believes it will take some time for people to regain confidence in coming back to 300 West, attributing this to the stigma and poor management of the ongoing construction.
When questioned about potentially increasing the financial assistance to help businesses affected by construction, Wright confirmed that “there’s nothing imminent [and] nothing planned currently.” According to the Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development, six areas of Salt Lake City will benefit from the grant through fall 2023.
The saga of construction and its ripple effect on businesses in Salt Lake City provides a window into the complex interplay between urban development and local commerce. While construction projects lay the foundation for future growth, their immediate impact on small businesses highlights the delicate balance cities must strike to ensure that both infrastructure and the local economy thrive side by side. Whether through increased financial support or improved planning and communication, the experiences of business owners like Trinnaman and Larsen reveal that more must be done to bridge the gap between the city’s infrastructural ambitions and the survival of its local businesses.