The brouhaha over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expansion of Temple Square to include Main Street between North and South Temple is regrettable -- ridiculous, indeed, in the opposition's claim that it threatens violation of civil rights.
The closing of this Main Street block was an essential part of the Second Century Plan. The Second Century Plan was created by the Downtown Planning Association in 1961 to make Salt Lake City the capital of Intermountain tourism.
The association membership included all Utah business and industrial leaders united to do all things necessary to realize the great potential of Utah tourism.
Recognizing Temple Square as Salt Lake's No. 1 tourist attraction the Downtown Planning Association recommended the closure and beautification of the Main Street block to make still more attractive the city's foremost tourism destination.
The recommendation of the Second Century Plan was not to require the Church of Jesus Christ to buy the 2-acre Main Street space (as it now has for $8.1 million), but to deed the property to the Church of Jesus Christ if it would landscape it and construct extensive underground parking.
Forgotten by too-eager critics is the magnanimous action by the Church of Jesus Christ which made available, for $1 per year, rental of the nine acres now occupied by the expanded Salt Palace Convention Center and Symphony Hall.
In recommending this use of the Main Street block it was never intended by the Downtown Planning Association that the acre addition to Temple Square would become a public park where "smoking, sunbathing, swearing, begging or picketing" would be permitted. Yet rules against such activities in the new addition are now ludicrously bemoaned as a denial of civil rights.
Salt Lake Valley has hundreds of square miles for the exercise of such "rights" -- all of the vast valley, indeed, except for private property, most of whose owners rule against such behavior. Why the puerile tantrum over the denial of such peculiar "rights" on the two acres that constitute the new Church Plaza?
Traffic engineers apparently did underestimate the impact of the plaza on automobile and pedestrian traffic, but ways will be found to cope with this problem just as they were following the closure of 100 South between West Temple and Second West to accommodate the Salt Palace Convention Center.
The Convention Center construction incidentally was the first part of the Second Century Plan to be undertaken. The Main Street Plaza addition to Temple Square puts the final piece in place.
And, what an economic triumph for Utah the Second Century Plan has been. In the late 1960s when the Salt Palace was under construction and Salt Lake's first Winter Olympics bid was being organized, Utah realized approximately $200 million from summer and winter tourism. In 1999 it was $4.1 billion.
The imminent opening to Utahns and visitors of the elegant Main Street Plaza should be hailed as an exciting event for one of America's most beautiful destination cities.
[Church's full name or contemporary shorthand name has been substituted for abbreviated name.]