The historic Utah Savings and Trust Bank building, a lone, precarious pillar of the past amid a changing Block 57 skyline, appears to have lost its battle for survival.
The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency asked for permission Wednesday to demolish the building. The agency had given potential buyers until Jan. 31 to submit bids, but no one bothered to submit a serious one, Redevelopment Director Alice Larkin Steiner said. No one responded to ads placed in newspapers and trade journals nationwide.The city's Historical Landmark Committee voted Wednesday to allow the demolition but only if the Redevelopment Agency can provide an acceptable plan for the future of the area. Those plans will be submitted at the committee's meeting next month and, if approved, could lead to demolition shortly thereafter.
But that doesn't mean committee members are happy with the decision. Anna Grace Sperry said she doesn't think the agency really tried to sell the building. She chastised the agency for not hiring a commercial real estate agent and for allowing only three months for buyers to respond.
"You need to market the building through a company that does that sort of thing for a living," she said. "It takes sometimes two years to get the right buyer for a commercial property. You couldn't market your own home in three months the way this was marketed."
City Councilman Tom Godfrey, an avid defender of the building in the past, was saddened.
"I love that building," he said. "I just think it's so distinctive."
Yet, even Godfrey reluctantly admits the time has come for the building to be destroyed. "I don't feel very good about it," he said.
Steiner said the building needs to be destroyed quickly so that the underground parking garage can be expanded at an adjacent 24-story office building under construction. That building and a planned plaza surrounding it are central to the city's renovation plans for the area.
The seven-story Utah Savings and Trust Bank building, 235 S. Main, is part of Block 57, bordered by 200 South and 300 South and by Main and State streets, where city leaders have planned a massive renovation.
The developer of the adjacent office tower, Boyer Co., said last year the Utah Savings and Trust Building was in danger of collapsing because of the construction. Even vibrations from workers driving pilings were dangerously jarring the building.
At that time, officials from Jacobsen Construction Co. and an engineering firm said the building is an extreme hazard in the event of even a moderate earthquake.
Last year, the Redevelopment Agency decided to see if anyone wanted to buy and shore up the building. No minimum price was set.
The building, finished in 1907, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its future has been a controversy in developing Block 57 ever since the Redevelopment Agency renovated and bought the structure in 1986 for $2.5 million. The building has been unoccupied and boarded since then. In 1988, the building was found to be heavily vandalized and apparently occupied by transients.
"We felt very strongly we needed to give that building a second chance," Godfrey said. "We did, and if they're going to tear it down, that means no one came through with a viable offer."
Utah Savings & Trust Building
Size: Seven stories high, 26 feet wide
Reason for historical significance: Early example of reinforced concrete construction and regional adaptation of Sullivanesque architectural style.
Designed by: Ware and Treganza, one of the most prominent Salt Lake architectural firms of the time.
Primary use: Bank building. Utah Savings and Trust Bank, founded in 1899, was one of the first established in Salt Lake City.\
Source: Utah Historical Society\