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Mormon church acquires 13 acres in downtown Salt Lake City

Published: Friday, Jan. 8 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has purchased 13 acres of prime downtown Salt Lake City real estate from The Sinclair Companies, formerly known as Sinclair Oil Corp., the hotel and oil corporation owned by Utah billionaire Earl Holding.

The property is located on two city blocks between 400 South and 500 South and between West Temple and the Matheson Courthouse.

The LDS Church confirmed the sale Thursday afternoon.

The sales price was not disclosed by either party nor on the special warranty deed filed with the Salt Lake County Recorder's Office.

"The land was purchased as a long-term investment with no immediate plans for development," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter.

Trotter said Property Reserve Inc. — a development arm of the LDS Church currently building the City Creek Center, a $3 billion office, retail and residential development in the space formerly occupied by the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Mall — obtained the property.

The deed to the property was signed Dec. 14, according to property records.

"It's the block north of Little America, the entire 10-acre block," Sinclair spokesman Clint Ensign said. "I believe that's Block 40. And then it is 3 acres directly east of Block 40. It's the block where the state courthouse is."

The property had been a surface parking lot.

"There's a number of different tenants downtown who we have that parked with us," Ensign said.

Over the past decade, numerous prospective buyers had approached Sinclair about buying the parking lot.

Sinclair never sold, but last June, Holding offered the property to Salt Lake County for no cost if the county would consider building a new convention center there instead of partnering in a hotel project near the Salt Palace.

But the idea never got off the ground, Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch said, because the Salt Palace has been functioning as a convention center for years.

"There was never really any thought of blowing up our convention center and building one down there," Hatch said. "I think we kind of viewed it as an interesting argument."

Holding offered the property as the county was discussing building a new hotel near the Salt Palace to accommodate tourists. An advisory committee had been assembled to address the issue and Sinclair representatives are participating on the committee, said Jim Braden, spokesman for Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

"We were told awhile back it's being sold," Braden said.

According to deed paperwork at the recorder's office, Property Reserve is nonprofit, and there is no loan associated with the property purchase.

With the deed, Property Reserve had to agree to some conditions, including not selling the land without first offering to sell it back to Sinclair. The company's right of first refusal is good for 25 years, unless Sinclair sells both the Little America and Grand America hotels before then.

Property Reserve can lease or transfer all or a portion of the property without triggering Sinclair's right of first refusal to an "affiliated entity," which the deed defines as a corporation with at least 80 percent of outstanding stock owned by Sinclair, Property Reserve or another LDS Church entity.

Contributing: Scott Taylor

e-mail: lhancock@desnews.com TWITTER: laurahancock

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