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Negotiations for Salt Lake City theater property could be costly

Published: Monday, Dec. 12 2011 6:17 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — It will cost the city nearly $23,000 a month to continue negotiations with the LDS Church to purchase property for a planned performing arts center.

The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City has been in exclusive negotiations with Property Reserve Inc. and Suburban Land Reserve — both development arms of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — since October 2008.

That agreement has been extended five times since then, with the latest set to expire Thursday. In order for the property owners to agree to a sixth extension, they're asking the RDA to reimburse them for costs associated with holding the properties off the market for the past three-plus years.

The Salt Lake City Council, which serves as the RDA's board of directors, will decide Tuesday whether to pay $22,900 per month for up to five months to extend that agreement.

"The property owners have been very gracious to hold onto those properties for the purposes of this project for several years now," said D.J. Baxter, the RDA's executive director. "That isn't free. They've spent a fair amount of money to maintain those properties."

In 2008, Mayor Ralph Becker announced plans to build the Utah Performing Arts Center at approximately 135 S. Main, just south of the LDS Church's estimated $1.5 billion City Creek development. The RDA wants to purchase 12 parcels of property totaling nearly 2 acres between Main and State streets and 100 South and 200 South.

Last week, the City Council voted to issue up to $18 million in bonds to design the 2,500-seat theater capable of hosting first-run touring Broadway shows.

That action, Baxter said, likely will speed up negotiations with the property owners.

"We wanted to make sure the City Council was ready to move forward with this project," he said.

The more than $114,500 the RDA would pay to the property owners if negotiations continue through May 2012 would cover a variety of costs, including cleaning, repairs, maintenance, utilities, security, parking operations, management fees, taxes and insurance.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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