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South Salt Lake Journal

City creates new Neighborhood department, Co-Op Center

Aug 09, 2021 01:12PM ● By Bill Hardesty

One advantage of the Co-Op Center is the opportunity to use free Wi-Fi and collaborate with others. (Unsplash)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Over the last months, changes have affected South Salt Lake. One involves a reorganization in city administration, and the other concerns the vacant space at the Columbus Center.

Neighborhood department

On June 9, Mayor Cherie Wood and Sharen Hauri presented an ordinance to create the Neighborhood Department. The ordinance was passed on June 23 and Sharen Hauri was appointed director on July 14.

While introducing the proposed ordinance, Wood said, "We also took the information from the General Plan survey, we heard loud and clear that residents’ focus is on their neighborhood. So, this is a great opportunity for us to listen to what the residents are asking for and formulate a department that will serve their needs."

The catalyst for this action occurred many years ago. Wood and others attended the National League of Cities and Towns in Seattle. The group found Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods intriguing. The idea simmered on the back burner until now.

"With Monte's retirement, we looked at potentially rearranging and realigning current resources and employees to a department that would have a mission statement, all things neighborhood," Wood said.

The Neighborhood Department divisions are Urban Design, Parks and Recreation, Facilities, Arts Council, Communications, Code Enforcement, and Animal Services. 

"So, we have the total package of things that people expect to happen in the neighborhood, and the person to communicate to them," Hauri said.

The reorganization has no budget impact.

Why focus on neighborhoods?

"Neighborhoods are the foundation of your life in a city; your home is your biggest investment; your neighbors are your lifelong friends. The schools you attend are sort of the center of your universe when you have kids," Hauri said, "So, we have long known South Salt Lake is a small city that's always had neighborhoods that kind of all knew each other, they're small little villages."

Hauri explained that institutions that brought people together, like neighborhood schools or neighborhood churches, have changed over the years. With the demographics changing in SSL, "There's just a different cohesion to how people live in South Salt Lake, and a lot more of them are relying just on their neighborhood to meet people be their social group and to kind of come together to make things better."

One of the recommendations coming from the General Plan work is that SSL should develop vision plans at the neighborhood level. For example, the Central Park neighborhood is different from the Riverfront neighborhood.

With Hauri's appointment, the reorganization is completed. 

Vacant space

With the building of the Granite County library, the Columbus Center branch was closed last year. For Hauri, this vacant space is like a new canvas to an artist.

After soliciting ideas from residents and city staff, including Promise SSL, the Co-Op was born. The Co-Op is not a library replacement. Instead, it is designed to support residents as they create business opportunities and provide space for the community to gather.

The Co-Op stands for Community-Opportunity. The center will have a strong foundation on digital access, employment help, and financial help. According to a fact sheet, it is, "A place for our community to work and gather with access to the tools that can help them connect, advance, and support one another."

"We want it to have a small business and entrepreneur feel," Hauri said, "It is not a place you come to play games."

Even though the Co-Op isn't fully built out, which will occur in October and November this year, the center is open. Lucas Horns, an intern in the Neighborhood Department, is at the center for 10 hours a week. Public Wi-Fi hours are Monday-Wednesday from 2-6 p.m. Since there are no public devices, users will need to bring their own devices. The Wi-Fi is available because of the Comcast Lift Zone project.

In addition to Wi-Fi access, non-profit groups are meeting at the center.

The center will have a Tech Lounge on the east side and a community gathering place on the west when open. There will be two large classrooms at the south end. One room is dedicated to the Arts Council. Community groups can use the other to hold classes. In addition, there will be small rooms available for video conferencing and larger spaces for collaboration. 

In addition, the South Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce will move into the location. This move will allow them to offer more help to entrepreneurs using the center to start a business.

There are further plans to make the Co-Op like a coffee shop. The plan is to remove the planter in the middle of the hall and build a small coffee counter.

"So, imagine you're drinking your coffee sitting at your computer like everyone does in coffee shops, and using the free Wi-Fi, using the meeting rooms to have a private meeting phone call or video chat, or use the private meeting rooms for a small meeting or job interview or something like that," Hauri said.