Granary: A District Shaping its Own Future

10 February 2014 Written by  

Salt Lake's Granary District, during the last few years, has undergone a dramatic transformation. Not long ago, it was commonly considered an industrial-era relic remiss of anything resembling neighborhood character. But over the last few years, it's become a legitimate neighborhood with a palpable identity all its own.

The beginnings of Granary's renaissance can be traced back to many of the same businesses that now serve as its most visible leaders. When you read the stories of Rico Brand's Jorge Fierro (see article from Utah Stories), Laziz's Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity (see article from The Salt Lake Tribune), or of all the unprecedented work being done by the Kentlands Initiative to make Granary Row a community gathering place, it's inspiring, to say the least. But these individual stories don't just exemplify the realization of the American Dream; they exemplify the continually evolving identity of the Granary itself as a place never satisfied with the identities prescribed to it by others.

The places where we live and work shape our own personal identities. But to take that idea a bit further, I would argue that we, in turn, shape the identities of the places where we live and work. It isn't just these businesses that are cultivating the Granary's neighborhood identity; the new Artspace buildings have brought in a wave of community-oriented organizations such as Wasatch Community Gardens and a co-working group organized by Sustainable Startups. In addition, Granary is a Redevelopment District, and the SLC RDA has played no small role in shaping the district's revitalization.

Once the Granary refused to be marginalized and stigmatized, it truly became a neighborhood, a community, a home. And as those place-making efforts continue to coalesce with increased local entrepreneurship, energy infuses the formerly tired district with new life. That new life is apparent in the faces of the residents and local business leaders who call the district home.

In transforming itself, however, the Granary didn't simply reinvent itself as something new. It reclaimed its own identity and pushed forward without compromising its heritage as a hard-working neighborhood full of hard-working people. To borrow from the district's own neighborhood narrative, "The Granary District has always been a productive place, and its brightest future is as a haven for makers—people with dirty hands, big ideas, and warm hearts."

Perhaps more than anything else, the Granary District exists as a small-scale example of Salt Lake City's overall redemptive spirit: that ineffable idea that we can shape our own paths.