Rose Park, located in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake, is the city’s melting pot. Today, the people who call this neighborhood home include first- and second-generation immigrants and refugees from Mexico, Central America, southeast Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands, as well as a good share of elderly white residents. The diversity of this unique community arose from a combination of shifting attitudes, public policy, and economic forces.
Like many other housing developments of its time, Rose Park began in 1947 with a racial covenant written into its founding documents. The declaration of subdivision stated that “no person of any race or nationality other than the White or Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building plot or lot.” There was an exception for domestic servants. Although the Supreme Court ruled the following year that such housing covenants could not be enforced, neighborhoods in the Salt Lake Valley remained largely segregated for years to come.
From the beginning, Rose Park consisted of small, brick houses that were built to be affordable for soldiers returning from World War II, eager to start new lives. When the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and '60s changed attitudes -- AND LAWS -- racial barriers to home ownership began to erode. By the 1970s, what had been a white, working-class neighborhood became an attractive option for Latino and Pacific Islander families, many of whom were religious converts wishing to move to Utah.
But the disparity between the East and West sides of Salt Lake grew. The city prioritized investment in wealthier East side neighborhoods as white families fled the West side. Plus, the proximity of Rose Park to oil refineries and their toxic waste kept home prices down. Still, Rose Park residents developed a strong sense of community and welcomed refugees, immigrants, and those looking to start out in an affordable first home.
As Salt Lake City continues to grow, change is inevitable. And as home prices rise on the East side of the city, the relatively cheaper properties in Rose Park have attracted an influx of wealthy buyers. Now gentrification threatens to disrupt the neighborhood’s character and displace its long-term residents.
Image: Rose Park sign on 600 N. Rose Park community members crowdfunded new signs on 600 N and 1000 N in 2014 to update the old signage and to make them more resistant to vandalism. Surveys and interviews indicate that residents of Rose Park tend to value the diversity of the neighborhood and the sense of community, though they are also concerned about being neglected by the city and about the possibility of being displaced due to rising home prices. Courtesy Nate Housley.