September 27, 2016

A Local’s Perspective on the Sugar House Development

Marcella Kirschbaum, Owner of Deano's Hair Studio

Marcella Kirschbaum, Owner of Deano’s Hair Studio

As a decade-long business owner on the Granite Block in Sugar House, I’ve been witness to every change that has taken place outside my window. Deano’s Hair Studio is a little glass box right on the sidewalk. Blink and you’ll miss it. Some people refer to it as a fishbowl, but I feel that it’s me doing all of the watching.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the changes in Sugar House these days. I’ve heard it called Sugar House Rising. The term “Rising” is apt with the multilevel apartments, but it’s made me think about what makes a neighborhood. How does a neighborhood manage growth while maintaining a sense of community and individuality?

Will the growth of Sugar House benefit or detract from what we have historically enjoyed about it?

I fear what is happening in Sugar House isn’t the rebirth of a neighborhood. Its surpassing gentrification and heading straight towards homogenization. Of the seven businesses moving into the renovated Granite Building, all of those are restaurants and at least five are chains. This is on top of the five fast food chains that have moved in within the past ten years.

Another challenging aspect to all of this change has been parking. The Rockwood tenants are left with the public spaces in front. Nearly all of these spaces are filled by early morning. This leaves no parking for my clients later in the day.

I have colleagues in the Rockwood Building who are contemplating moving because the parking has become so difficult for their own clients or students. These same colleagues are also my clients. The Santa Shack, a Sugar House tradition, lost business last year. One doesn’t need an economics degree to see the overall impact on local business.

Will I leave? Not until I’m forced out. Despite my displeasure, I still love Sugar House. I’ll keep on walking to the Post Office, the Sprague Library or shopping for local produce at that beloved grocery chain. I’ve been to Flat Bread Pizza but I’ll return to the Veggie Panini at Fat’s Grill.

At the end of the day I’ll walk across Sugarmont to pick up my son from Youth City. I love the front row seat that I have to everything that goes on. But new and improved doesn’t always mean better.