GRANARY — No matter how or why any of the individual faces were depicted on one of Salt Lake City’s Fleet Block murals, Gina Thayne said Wednesday, someone loves that person; someone misses this person.
These murals, which line the boarded-up panels of a derelict property long targeted by the city for revitalization, sprung from the nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Each depicts a person killed by a police officer, and among them is Thayne’s nephew, Dillon Taylor, who was shot dead by police outside a 7-Eleven supermarket in 2014. He was unarmed and 20 years old. Courts found the killing justified.
“I understand that our tragedies are not everyone’s tragedies,” Thayne said. “But they kind of are.”
The Fleet Block has become a place of healing for the families whose loved ones line the walls, Thayne said. They see each other there, grieve together and understand each other with an unspoken language, she said.
“None of us asked to be here,” Thayne said. “This is a club no one would ever want to join.”
Thayne’s comments came during a news conference to commemorate a city-launched public engagement and therapeutic counseling campaign, outlined in new signage unveiled Tuesday on the east and north sides of the Fleet Block property.
But it also served as a formal resumption of the city’s effort to redevelop the block, a long-delayed effort reinvigorated by the explosive growth of the Central 9th and Granary District neighborhoods, and a fresh shot in the taxpayer’s arm in the form of an $85 million park bond, of which approximately $6 million will be used to create green space in the historically neglected area.
Those efforts were “paused,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said, after the murals were disseminated to include affected families and reframe goals for the project to reflect the new meaning of the property.
“We needed to recognize that the fleet block murals were a catalyst for collective healing and social change,” Mendenhall said. “This block has been in development for decades, but we never imagined that a public process would be so robust to create it. He is totally unique in Salt Lake City history.”
Mendenhall outlined the next steps for the Fleet Block, beginning with a proposed rezoning of the property, which is currently pending before City Council. If this zoning change is approved, she said, the formal tendering process (RFP) can begin, with interested parties and planners then able to begin drafting proposals.
“Our city and our nation as a whole are grappling with the critical conversations that have not previously taken place about injustice and the future of justice and justice in our local spaces,” Mendenhall said. “They helped create a new way of working for us as a city.”
Development in the area has increased significantly in recent years, with Central 9th to the east and the Granary District to the west featuring hundreds of new housing units as well as breweries, restaurants and retail space, aided by zoning that encourages moderate-density, mixed-use development -Use-, passage-oriented design.
But this core of construction — and the city’s associated pathways and road works — has taken a serious toll on both residents and business owners, made worse by years of a pandemic-stricken economy. A neighborhood shop, The Big O Donuts, recently announced that it would be closing its doors in January.
City Councilman Darin Mano, whose district the Fleet Block belongs to, said he first heard about plans to redevelop the area 10 years ago. Back then, it was touted as a “catalyst” that could wake up a neglected corner of the city.
But since then, he said, Central 9th and Granary have both grown around the stalled project. Instead of one big development designed to spark change, he said, the fleet block can be broken down into smaller packages and amplify the changes already taking place.
Now it can be a place where people can live affordably, a place that nurtures creativity, a hub for diversity for inclusion, a hub for local, growing minority-owned businesses, and a place to connect with the community engage and serve our community,” Mano said. “There will also be an open space, a park, that is a destination and will bring nature to this part of our city that is deprived of green spaces.
For more information on the city’s plans, visit slc.gov/FleetBlock.