When the Brigham Young Academy first opened its doors in 1875, its intent was to educate and enrich the lives of people living in the valley.
Now, more than 100 years later, seven developers have failed to turn the academy into a commercial center, and the Brigham Young Academy Foundation is in its 10th year trying to preserve the buildings and return them to their original intent.The foundation is working to raise enough money to make a cash offer on the academy and turn it into a community center, but there is one problem: They need major donors in a major way.
The group thinks, however, that at least partial relief from its money woes may be on the way.
Maurine Brimhall, vice president of the foundation, said, "We feel that the present slump in real estate will allow us to negotiate a good price if we can get enough money."
Collier Heinz & Associates, a Salt Lake City investment company that owns the academy, is asking $800,000 for the square, but Brimhall said the foundation hopes that a cash offer will be another way of getting the academy for less.
Brigham Young University sold the academy originally for $476,000 in 1975.
Developers have had problems turning the academy, located at Fifth North and University Avenue, into a workable project because the buildings are on the Utah historic register, which places restrictions on property development.
Anyone interested in developing the academy must restore the face of College Hall and the Education Building. Developers have found that it would cost more to restore the buildings than it would to tear them down and start over.
Collier Heinz officials refused to comment about the present situation at Academy Square, but city officials said that the company may go to court and challenge the restrictions preventing them from building on their own if no developers are found in the next two to three months.
Brimhall, however, believes the foundation has the "upper hand" in development because it is a branch of the Utah Heritage Foundation, the group that has the historical easements.
"We have the same philosophy as they do about the academy. We want to preserve it. There is such a charm behind it."
The foundation is presently working with several groups - a community services organization and a performing arts group - interested in leasing space in the buildings.
"We envision making a community center out of it instead of a for-money enterprise," Brimhall said.
She said the Osmond family is also interested in developing a program for the hearing impaired. Working with gifted students is another option as is providing counseling for couples with marital problems.
A performing arts group is interested in using part of the buildings for ballet, dance or theater classes and studios for vocal training, she said. They will have access to College Hall for performances.
The buildings have not been fully occupied since the academy was sold in 1975 and have become a home to transients and vandals at times.
Those interested in the building can make tax-deductible donations to the Utah Heritage Foundation earmarked for the restoration of Academy Square. Contributions should be sent to the Brigham Young Academy Foundation, P.O. Box 82, Provo 84603.
Anyone interested in donating time and materials or for further information about the project can write to Brimhall at the foundation, P.O. Box 12, Provo, 84603.