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Tagen Baker

Urban Redevelopment Project: SLC 2013

Incorporated in 1938, the relatively young town of South Salt Lake boasted the highest rate of violent crime in all of Utah when Cherie Wood was elected Mayor in 2010.  Wood created the city's first Urban Livability Department in an attempt to transform the downtown area into a safe, functional space, and this series documents one of the department's more recent projects.


Tagen Baker, photographer and South Salt Lake resident says, "this old trailer park was being removed and, essentially, a new neighborhood will be built there.  Many of the homes were condemned.  While we lived in the neighborhood a utility company even found a missile behind one of the trailers!  We came home from work one day to find our whole neighborhood blocked off by police and the Hill Air Force Base Bomb Squad. They would never comment if the missile was actually active or not." 


The urban redevelopment project has transfomed South Salt Lake's downtown.  Where before one would find improperly zoned buidings riddled with chaos, Baker reports, "we can walk a block and go grocery shopping, to the movies, eat at any ethnic restaurant you can think of, even go to Chinatown."  In 2012 Utah's first "Chinatown" broke ground, a building initiative heavily welcomed by many, including the tens of thousands of Chinese nationals who currently reside in the Salt Lake area.



While it's easy to see the redevelopment at South Salt Lake as a hands-down win for Cherie Wood and the city, Baker's photographs speak, often without seeming to realize it, for those lost in the bureaucratic shuffle: the impoverished families, the loss of one's home, and the hundreds of tiny decisions—what must stay, what can go?


Baker says, about the photographs "what drew me to this project is the redevelopment.  Like our own farmhouse, built in 1904, a block and a half away, this area was a mess.  Our home had been vacant for 3 years, tagged with graffiti, had homeless people living in it, and had suffered much abuse.  We moved in and cleaned in up; our neighbors across the street were doing the same.  I imagine that the settlers in the valley really cherished this area.  Rose bushes are planted all along the streets where the mailboxes are, both of them nearly as old as my house.  South Salt Lake is a unique place with a lot of history.  This is just a part of the story of the place it will become." 


Jake Patin,

Gravel Editor

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