Expensive marble slabs, remnants of a recent renovation effort, have been shattered and lie in pieces littering the carpet of a vacant downtown building. The carpet itself is charred in places from indoor campfires. Throughout the building's seven floors, air conditioning units, telephone and electrical panels have been stripped, with valuable motors and circuits missing.
In some rooms, the expensive wall coverings and wood trim, left over from the unfinished remodeling attempt, are marred by obscene graffiti and satanic symbols. Restroom fixtures have been ripped off the walls. Human waste is decaying in what were once planned as prime downtown offices.Salt Lake taxpayers paid $2.3 million in 1986 to buy this building, at 235 S. Main in downtown's beleaguered Block 57, after lending $200,000 to its previous owners for renovation.
The Utah Savings and Trust Building, built in 1906, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an early example of reinforced concrete construction. It is noted as a regional adaption of Sullivanesque architecture.
Since the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency purchased the building two years ago, the building has been vacant and is currently unsecured. At the time of the sale, several tenants were located in the building. "The building does not have any value in terms of rentable space today," said Michael Chitwood, executive director of the RDA. "There were tenants in there paying rent" at the time of the sale.
Chitwood said the building was purchased as part of the agency's plan to buy and develop the entire block. Deals with two different developers broke down, and lawsuits by Block 57 landowners continue to stall the agency's acquisition plans.
Chitwood said the building hasn't been rented because of the extensive cost to renovate it and bring it up to code. It hasn't been razed yet, as have other RDA-owned properties on the northeast corner of the downtown block, because it is a narrow building, wedged between the old J.C. Penney store and the old Keith Warshaw store. "We're just waiting.
"We try to keep it boarded up. We try to keep it secure. We've had problems. We've found on a periodic basis that the doors have been broken open, and there have been signs of people in and out," Chitwood said.
The agency purchased the building shortly after agreeing to lend $1.3 million in bridge loans for renovation work to the previous owners. Some $200,000 in loans were made, but the money was repaid with interest after the sale, Chitwood said.
"The board was willing to fund rehabilitation on this structure because there was no intention to demolish it in the near future," according to an RDA memorandum dated March 19, 1987.
Attorney Ray B. Zoll owned the fifth floor of the building and had his offices there at the time it was sold.
"We sold because we really didn't have much of a choice but to sell. We sold in hopes that RDA would continue the renovation of the entire block, which they could afford to do, but we couldn't."
Throughout the building, piles of litter, ripped acoustic tiles, drywall panels and sawdust pose a fire hazard, and an open elevator shaft is a safety hazard. Broken windows and unlocked outside doors are an invitation to potential liability problems.
New false ceiling frames and light fixtures have been bent and left hanging. Expensive tempered glass windows have been shattered, while holes have been punched through interior walls.
One room on the fifth floor serves as home and message center to a few of the city's transient population. "9:30 a.m. Sat.," reads a felt-pen message on the wall. "I was here. Stashed my stuff. Back in awhile. Lillian."
Amid the trash and litter next to the message wall is a copy of a magazine titled Traveling in Style.