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Taylorsville Journal

Dilapidated no more: Carriage Square sporting a million-dollar facelift

Jun 06, 2024 09:17AM ● By Carl Fauver

Elected officials from Taylorsville, West Valley City and the Utah State Senate gathered with Carriage Square merchants and shoppers for a grand reopening. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

One of the most diverse retail shopping areas in the entire United States has a brand-new-and-improved look, right here in Taylorsville.

It was nearly three years ago when city officials announced, in essence, they had Uncle Sam (federal tax) money burning a hole in their pocket. Some $758,694 in Housing and Urban Development funding had been set aside for several years to make massive improvements at the Taylorsville Senior Center. But a last-minute snag suddenly made that site ineligible for the federal renovation dollars (that’s a different story).

About that same time, representatives from the Carriage Square (southwest corner of Redwood Road and 4100 S.) Property Owners Association were in talks with the city about pitching in to help make infrastructure improvements at the significantly “tired and run down” multicultural shopping complex.

Can you say “perfect timing?”

Ken Donarski serves as the city’s Community Development Block Grant consultant.

“For seven years, Taylorsville City had been setting aside CDBG funding for the senior center project,” Donarski said at the time. “Once that project was out, we needed to identify another project that would meet CDBG requirements. Otherwise, the city would begin to lose significant chunks of that money each year.”

It’s quite common for Uncle Sam to grant money to cities, counties and states with a ticking clock attached. If funds aren’t spent in the proper time frame, they go back to Washington, D.C.

City officials determined Carriage Square was a fully eligible and worthy place to redirect the federal money. Moreover, as construction costs were going up, they also identified an additional $320,000 in CDBG funds over the next couple of years, raising the total allocation to the project to $1,079,002.

“The city has been heavily involved working with the (Carriage Square) property owners for many years, helping their unique, diverse shops to succeed,” Taylorsville Economic & Community Development Director Wayne Harper said. “We’ve helped to connect store owners with small business resource centers and Salt Lake Community College to help them develop skills in accounting and payroll. The city wants Carriage Square to succeed because it provides so many employment opportunities. It’s such a unique area, so multicultural, helping African, Vietnamese, Portuguese and people from many other ethnicities to pursue their American Dream.” 

The nearly 1.1-million federal dollars were spent completely repaving the large Carriage Square parking lot and also widening and upgrading sidewalks. Construction on the improvements was completed last year; but Carriage Square merchants wanted to wait for more favorable weather for their grand reopening. It was held May 11 – the day before Mother’s Day.

“We had free food, drinks, carnival games and vendor booths at the re-opening celebration,” said Carriage Square Property Owners Association President Dr. Tuyet Nguyen, who MCed the event. “Our association signed a contract with the city, promising each business owner would also (financially) participate in making improvements by updating our storefronts and signage. Now that the parking and sidewalk work is done, we’ll approve color and design schemes and that upgrade work will begin soon.”

Nguyen, 34, is relatively new to Carriage Square and one of its younger business owners. Her parents were born in Vietnam. She describes them as “some of the boat people who fled the country at the end of Vietnam War.” Born and raised in Utah, Nguyen has owned and operated Tuyet’s Pharmacy in the shopping complex since July 2019.

“I searched all over the Salt Lake Valley for a store location and originally did not want to settle here in Carriage Square because it was so rundown,” she explained. “But I also knew the largest concentration of Vietnamese residents in the valley are in Taylorsville and West Valley City. I wanted to help serve my people. I decided the benefits outweighed the problems.”

Nguyen received all of her education here in the valley: a West High School diploma, a Biology/Chemistry degree at the University of Utah and an MBA and doctorate in Pharmacy from the private Roseman University in South Jordan. She then worked at a couple of different CVS stores before taking the risk of hanging her own shingle five years ago.

“I became active in the (Carriage Square Property Owners) Association the year after I opened and my unofficial title was secretary,” she said. “Last fall, when our previous president stepped down, I was basically wrangled into become president. I like it. We have more than 50 locally-owned, multicultural businesses representing Vietnamese, Chinese, Hispanic, Polynesian, Latin American, African and many more cultures. I enjoy helping them.” 

Carriage Square is located in Taylorsville City Councilman Ernest Burgess’s District 1.

“We’re so glad to see this wonderful project completed because it was needed for such a long time,” he said. “This is such an important shopping area, because of all the (store owner) diversity. Nowhere else in our city is like it – and shopping areas like this are very unusual throughout Salt Lake County.”

All five Taylorsville City Council members attended the Carriage Square grand reopening, along with Mayor Kristie Overson and Harper. 

Just across 4100 South from the shopping center, the north side of the street is within West Valley City jurisdiction. Several of that city’s elected officials also attended the ribbon cutting, along with ChamberWest representatives and Utah State Senators from the area, Karen Kwan and the aforementioned Harper.

“Carriage Square is so unique because it relies upon the individual business owners to take care of the area rather than a single owner with business tenants,” Taylorsville District 5 City Councilman Bob Knudsen said. “I am especially grateful to these business owners, because this is their livelihood, their dream. The great partnership between our city economic development group and these owners has led to this complete revitalization of Carriage Square.” λ

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