If the Plandome Hotel were a play, it would have been penned by Eugene O'Neill - devoid of heroes, fraught with pitiful characters - and have an unhappy ending.
But the drama is not over yet for the burned-out Salt Lake hotel on the northwest corner of Fourth South and State streets. Developers Kip Paul and Robert Gerrard, who bought the building in January, won a $225,000 historic preservation loan from the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency on Thursday.The Redevelopment Agency board, composed of Salt Lake City Council members, set up a $750,000 fund in February. Developers are also renovating the Clift Building, 10 W. Third South, with the three-year loan at 9 percent interest.
The Plandome, which developed a checkered past after it was built in 1903, will be renovated beginning in late October, the developers said. The ground floor will support retail stores while the upper two floors will become office space.
Nearly 50 percent of the building has been leased. Tenants already include a sandwich shop, an art gallery and a gift shop. Some tenants also have leased office space on the second and third floors, Paul said.
The developers, who once planned to demolish the building, will have sunk roughly $1 million into the project by the time renovation is completed in January 1989, Paul said.
The building's roof had to be replaced following a fire in 1987, and a great deal of interior and exterior work will be required before it's ready for tenants, he said.
The Plandome's reputation goes back more than 80 years to its birth in 1903. In its youth, the hotel was one of Salt Lake City's finest, though in the shadow of the younger, more luxurious Hotel Utah.
But the hotel's decline into a flophouse is what stands out most prominently in the building's history. Officials frequently threatened the building with closure because of health and safety violations.
In 1983, Mountain Fuel Supply cut off gas to the hotel because of unpaid bills owed by owner James Bailey. Elderly and low-income tenants temporarily went without heat as a result of the actions.
After bankruptcy proceedings, the hotel was closed in 1986 and became a haven for trespassing drug dealers and transients.
A last-ditch effort was made to reopen the hotel in 1987 under new ownership, but flames sent disheveled tenants back into the streets and nearly cleared the way for wrecking crews to demolish the building.
Mayor Palmer DePaulis signed a demolition permit for the building in 1987, but city officials lobbied developers to keep the structure intact, Paul said.
"As we went into the building we were courted pretty heavily by city officials who wanted to save the building," he said, adding despite damage from the fire the building was still sound.
"The fire actually just burned the roof. It looked worse than it really was," Paul said. With a little spit and polish, the Plandome can go a long way, he said.
"If you take away the name and the image it really does, believe it or not, have some charm to it," Paul said.
A local architect will be designing the interior's renovation, while an artist concentrates on the building's exterior.