Something completely unexpected happened to me today. I went somewhere that I go often, but because of the context of new circumstances, I saw that place differently. The new perspective was subtle, but the implications of what I learned from it were profound.
I am volunteering at CNU 21 and had the privilege of helping guide a tour titled “Gateway: Retail Transformation Workshop.” The Gateway is a mixed-use destination that was opened around the time of the 2002 Olympics. When City Creek Center opened in 2012, many questioned whether downtown Salt Lake City could support that much retail. However, both The Gateway and City Creek Center are not malls in the sense of what we typically see in suburbia.
In addition to retail and dining (and apartments, condos, and offices), The Gateway is home to Megaplex 12 Theatres, the Clark Planetarium, and the Discovery Gateway children’s museum. However, the most precious component of The Gateway is by far the Olympic Legacy Plaza and Fountain. I volunteered during the 2002 Olympics, so my name is inscribed on the wall among those of all the other volunteers. Each time I visit The Gateway, I have a habit of checking the wall to make sure my name is still there. Even though I have a deep connection to that wall, I feel even more deeply connected to the fountain.
As the tour group reached the fountain, the thought occurred to me: What if the fountain had never been built? I immediately became overwhelmed by emotion and was fighting back tears at the thought. This is a place that I’ve visited hundreds of times, yet I had never felt importance of this feature in my life and in the life of Salt Lake City. What if the fountain had never been built? It breaks my heart to think of the countless number of kids (of all ages) whose lives would never have been touched by having played in the fountain. Removing the fountain would be like ripping out my heart. Countless people have come to The Gateway to shop, but their memories of the stores quickly fade. But everyone remembers the fountain!
I’m a 36 year old man and am astounded by how profoundly this has affected me. In my mind, this underscores the positive influence that our built environment can have on our lives, when it is built correctly!