Construction is proceeding on schedule to renovate and refurbish the Hotel Utah building in downtown Salt Lake City.

But because of safety precautions and various barricades, visitors to LDS general conference this weekend won't be able to tell much of what's going on at the construction site.However, work is well under way at the former hotel and an adjoining excavation site - the latter for a four-level underground parking terrace between the hotel and the Church Administration Building. The excavated area, the former site of spacious flower gardens, will be relandscaped.

The hotel, a Salt Lake landmark for about 80 years, has been uninhabited since its doors were closed Aug. 31, 1987. The building, which has undergone four major remodeling projects and additions in the past, is being converted into offices, a chapel, a theater, restaurant and banquet and other facilities, with construction and other work scheduled for completion in mid-1993.

"The things that people remember most about the old Hotel Utah will be even nicer when the work is completed, except that they won't be able to stay overnight there," said Mike Enfield, project manager for the Church Temples and Special Projects Division of the church's Physical Facilities Department.

The main lobby, Enfield said, will "look pretty much the way it looked before the hotel was closed. We're not making many changes there. The magazine shop has been removed, as has the airline ticket counter on the west side of the lobby, which will be enlarged to its original size.

"Basically, the lobby will be refurbished to its past elegance - the way most people remember it."

Visitors might wonder why the top or 10th floor of the hotel is being removed. They also will undoubtedly notice that new openings have been made in exterior walls and that some old openings in the walls have been closed up.

The 10th floor, which was constructed as an addition after the hotel was built between 1911 and 1912, is being removed and will be replaced with a lighter and stronger floor to make the building more resistant to earthquakes.

Enfield said massive seismic walls are being erected in some of the new openings, while some of the exterior wall openings are being closed so the east wall can be remodeled to look like the west wall with its decorative terra-cotta window trim.

The 10th floor will include two restaurants. One, a garden restaurant, will be located in the south part of the west wing under a movable skylight. A larger restaurant will continue in the tradition of the hotel's former the Roof Restaurant and will feature table as well as buffet service, said Joe Ruben, principal in charge of the project for FFKR Architects, Salt Lake City.

The east wing of the 10th floor will house assembly and meeting rooms, Ruben explained.

The former Gold, Jade and Presidents' Rooms will be available for public receptions and banquets.

In the area formerly known as the Grand Ballroom, a 500-seat theater will be constructed. Enfield said the church may use the theater as an extension of the those now available in Temple Square visitor centers.

One movie that will be shown in the big-screen theater will depict church historical events. The film, which has a working title of "Legacy," is planned to give visitors to Temple Square and the church complex a better understanding of church history, one official said.

More than 100 computer terminals for public use in tracing genealogy will be located in the former Bonneville meeting rooms below the theater.

Five floors of the structure will be used for church offices, including the Family History Department and Public Communications. Three floors will be left unfinished for future expansion, Enfield said.

The hotel's former Lafayette Ballroom will used as a chapel to accommodate 500 people. Two LDS wards will hold their services there. Bishops' offices and classrooms also will be housed in the building.

An observation window will be located near the center of the 10th floor of the structure, giving building visitors a view of Temple Square to the west and part of the Wasatch Mountains to the east, Ruben said.

The renovated beehive dome and a new flagpole, which was completed in 1988, will be left just as they are atop the building's central tower.

Church Distribution Center and temple clothing facilities will be located in the basement.

The parking deck, which will replace a two-level underground parking terrace, will accommodate 350 vehicles.

Christiansen-Bodell, a joint venture formed from two Salt Lake firms - Christiansen Brothers Inc. and Bodell Construction Co - are general contractors for the project.