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Salt Lake City abandons century-old Utah Pantages theater; building to be demolished


The Utah Theater is pictured in Salt Lake City on December 3, 2019. Salt Lake City, which purchased the building in 2010, has finalized its deal to turn it over to a development agency that is considering demolishing the building. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – The set is now set for the demolition of the century-old Utah Pantages Theater to make way for the newest skyscraper in downtown Salt Lake City, despite attempts by outside groups to call for the building’s preservation.

The Salt Lake City redevelopment agency on Wednesday closed the transfer of the Main Street building to Texas-based global development company Hines. The transaction is seen as the city’s final step in the property transfer process; City officials said on Friday that Hines can now move forward with site preparation for construction of the new “150 Main” building.

Salt Lake City and its GDR had owned the property for a decade. In December 2019, they struck a deal with Hines, ceding ownership to the developer at no additional cost. By that time, it had already been revealed that the company wanted to build a 30-story building with 300 apartments in its place.

Details of the building continue to be worked out, but city officials said on Friday that the current plan still calls for a $ 100 million mixed-use building with 10% of the tower apartments designated as affordable housing for residents making up about 60% to 80% of the county’s median income.

“The closing of the sale represents an important step in the redevelopment of this property and now allows us to focus our attention on the benefits this project will provide. In particular, the inclusion of open spaces and affordable units that will provide the opportunity for the public and new residents to live, work and play in the city center, ”said Danny Walz, director of the city’s GDR , in a press release.

Wednesday’s transaction marks a possible final step in what has been a controversial few years in determining the fate of the building, although city officials have not indicated a timeframe for when the theater could be demolished.

The original construction of the theater began in 1918 and it opened in 1920. It was, among other things, one of the first buildings in the country to be fitted with an air conditioning system. It was then split into two theaters in the 1960s during renovations at the time.

City officials said the building had been vacant since 1992; they argued that he needed “substantial” rehabilitation since that time. The city’s redevelopment agency acquired the property in 2010. By the agency, the purpose of the purchase was to “activate Main Street” with the property, either by demolishing or renovating it. The agency has since estimated that it would cost between $ 40 million and $ 80 million to renovate the building as is, so it was sold.

“As the nation’s fastest growing state capital, Salt Lake City is in the midst of incredible growth and change. We need more housing, more access to affordable housing and more green space in our urban areas, ”Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement Friday. “While it is unfortunate that under previous ownership the theater has seen decades of intentional and unintentional degradation, it is encouraging that the upcoming development of the 150 Main will bring with it so many of our city’s current needs to the heart of our downtown. “

Groups like Preservation Utah and Save the Utah Pantages Theater opposed the 2019 sale and fought for the building to be preserved.

The first states that he had been involved in the attempt to preserve the theater for about two decades; the latter of the two attempted to get a question about the sale added to the city’s ballot this year, then sued the city after the initiative was denied. A 3rd District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit on September 23 – although the decision has since been appealed, court records show.

The Save the Utah Pantages Theater group also questioned the city’s rehabilitation estimate as a similar theater in Tacoma, Washington, was rehabilitated for less than $ 20 million. Its organizers named the theater to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September. If the building is classified, this does not prevent the demolition of the building but would allow its owners to benefit from tax credits covering part of the cost of its rehabilitation.

After Wednesday’s transfer, the group’s organizers said in several social media posts that they were not done fighting to save the building.

“I’m not going anywhere. (Casey McDonough) is not going anywhere. (David Berg) is not going anywhere”, group organizer Michael Valentine wrote in a social media post on Friday. “Our international Pantages family is here for the long haul.… It took 12 years to save and restore the Ogden Egyptian in the 1980s. I’ve been here for two years, so if it takes me another decade, let it be. so be it.

“The only way this is all over is when the Pantages is safe, protected, restored and firmly in the hands of the people,” the message continued. “Until then you will not see any rest from me.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion