Utah’s old Greek Town is about to start something new

Story by CASSANDRA ROSENKRANTZ

All photos courtesy of Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake.


Greeks have created a community in Salt Lake City ever since the first Greek immigrant came to the United States to work in the late 1870s, according to the history of Greek Orthodox. Industrialization created a major influx of Greek immigrants into the city. 

Wanting to keep the Greek culture alive, the community decided to build a Hellenic (Greek) church in 1905. Plans were made to raise money and, eventually, they built a church on the property at 439 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City.

An undated image of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The church, now known as Holy Trinity Cathedral, is the oldest Greek Orthodox church in the U.S. and it is home to the largest Greek parish west of Chicago, according to the church’s history.

According to church leaders, the community built a school to teach the young children to speak the ancient and modern Greek languages and also implemented a language program at the University of Utah

Holy Trinity is planning a big project that could impact the Greek community for the better. Ideas of future development for the land the church occupies in Salt Lake City’s Greek Town were discussed in the weekly church bulletin. This project would be the biggest that the Greek Orthodox community has taken on since the building of the first church. 

The bulletin reported that Woodbury Corp., a local development and real estate company, plans to fill the empty lot with offices, apartments for younger Greek generations, a hotel, retail outlets, Greek restaurants, a historic museum and a large park complete with an outdoor viewing space. With this new plan, Holy Trinity will be able to provide a lot of new facilities to the area in Salt Lake City.

In the past few decades, many generations of Greek Americans have come through the church. “This new center (development) could add so much to the vibrant Greek community we have here in Salt Lake,” said Annie Nikols, a member of the church, in an email interview. “I am so excited to have a project of this magnitude that will let the future generations share their history and be proud of who they are.”

Andrew Pippas, a board member on the church’s council, said he hopes the renovation plan will expand the core program of the church and provide space where everyone can visit to learn more about the Greek culture.

“This is a chance for the Greek community to show the city what they can do. This is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. We should take it while we have the chance,” Pippas said

The Greek Orthodox Youth Association dancing at the Greek Festival.

George Papadakis, a leader in the Greek community, said the Greek Festival has no plans of shutting down if this project gets up and running. 

According to VisitSLC, the Greek Festival is the second largest festival in Utah after the Utah State Fair. The festival is very well known to the public and many Utahns look forward to seeing historical Greek dancing as well as getting to taste the foods of Greece. 

Many comments have been made to the church regarding the Greek Festival on the community Facebook page. Festival-goers say the current lot does not provide everything the festival needs. This was one of the primary reasons that sparked the idea of a new Greek Town.

Papadakis is joyful for the possibility of an upcoming expansion. “Not many people know what being Greek means,” he said. “This church and the new center will become such a big part of who we are, and we are hoping the public can come to visit and become a part of our family.”   

The downtown development will benefit everyone — not just the Greek community. It will be open to the public and anyone can move into the apartments, eat at the restaurants or rent a space in the offices. 

“The plans for the new building look modern,” said Nikols, the church member. “It is so fun to think of it as our future where our kids and the new generation will grow up.”

Rendering of the new buildings making up Greek Town.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, construction costs are looking upwards of $300 million and the church is currently accepting donations. The Huntsman Foundation of Utah has donated to help the Greek community achieve its goal. Although the church has already started planning, the project has yet to take shape and it is still under consideration from the local government. If the plan passes, the project is expected to get underway as soon as possible and could take up to three years to complete.

Many members of the church, like Nikols, have shared their joy of the renovation plan on social media in hopes to spread the news and receive donations. The parishioners are hoping that Greek Town will become a popular neighborhood gathering area for locals in Salt Lake City where they can eat, relax and enjoy the Greek culture.