Taylorsville celebrates 20th anniversary with optimism for future

Taylorsville • One hundred years after Utah became a state, the "Centennial City" was formed. Now coming up on its July 1, 20th anniversary, Taylorsville became a city after 70 percent of residents voted to incorporate.

The incorporation was driven by 55,147 residents who wanted to see their city succeed. They had a $9 million budget, their own City Council and a new sense of autonomy.

"It gave us local control," said state Rep. Jim Dunnigan, who served on Taylorsville's advisory council when it was part of unincorporated Salt Lake County and later on the City Council.

One of Taylorsville's greatest successes, he said, is citizens' can-do attitude and volunteerism. "When we started the city from scratch, we had a lot of volunteers that wanted to see the city be a success. There is a good feeling of people trying to help each other and looking out for their neighbors."

Those volunteers drove many community projects, including Taylorsville Dayzz, which began its three-day annual run on Thursday.

When the festival started in 1997, it was a modest, one-day event. There was a parade, some booths and entertainment that all wrapped up by 7:30 Saturday night.

When Dunnigan became the event chair, he added fireworks, and that, he says, "was the pixie dust" that spurred Taylorsville Dayzz expansion and popularity ­­— with 30,000 expected to attend on Saturday night alone.

Twenty years into its incorporation, Taylorsville City now has a population of 60,514 (making it the 12th largest city in Utah), a budget of $32 million and 1,965 licensed businesses. It is also home to the state's largest community college campus ­— Salt Lake Community College.

"I honestly don't see a lot of change. I think Taylorsville has an identity and the citizens like it," said Russ Wall, Taylorsville's mayor from 2006 to 2013.

The city, like any, has faced its challenges. Now almost completely built out, Taylorsville has only 120 acres of its 10.7 square miles of land left to develop. Traffic is a constant problem since the city is a crossroads — 5400 South and Redwood Road last year was identified as the state's busiest intersection with more than 99,000 vehicles a day — and there is not an east to west freeway in that part of the valley. Some businesses also have struggled

"The challenge is we have businesses in some areas getting older, but that provides an opportunity for someone to repurpose the structure and rejuvenate it," says Dunnigan. "As the older families pass on, younger families come in and it regenerates. A number of older businesses have been torn down and new ones have been built. It's kind of a rebirth," said Dunnigan.

City Planner Matt Taylor confirmed Dunnigan's optimism. Taylor said some shopping centers in Taylorsville have around a 15 to 20-year life cycle, which gives developers the chance to build something new. Big new retail developments currently are underway in the 5400 So. Redwood area, including a new theater complex.

"One of most important things is to keep residence neighborhoods attractive and valuable. The combination of a strong citizenry with good opportunity for redevelopment can entice developers to come in and redevelop," said Taylor. "We'll continue to work with developers to reinvest and reinvent."

The city is also working with the Utah Transit Authority on a bus rapid transit system that would like Salt Lake Community College's Redwood Campus to Murray Central TRAX Station, which would alleviate some of the city's transportation problems.

But city advocates say with all the outward change and challenges, some things have remained constant.

"Taylorsville has an identity and the citizens like it," said Russ Wall, Taylorsville's mayor from 2006 to 2013. "We're kind of still a rural, little city in the middle of a very metropolitan county, and I think our citizens are happy."