A Utah County company that rescued and revived what many considered a doomed steel mill also may become involved in saving some historical buildings threatened with destruction.
Basic Manufacturing and Technologies of Utah, which owns and operates Geneva Steel, is evaluating the purchase of the old Brigham Young Academy property.Geneva Steel Director Chris Cannon is careful to stress that the company is only looking at buying the four 19th-century stone buildings at Fifth North and University Avenue.
No agreement has been reached with the academy's owner, Collier Heinz & Associates, a Salt Lake property investment firm. And it could be some time before there is an agreement, Cannon said.
But Basic Manufacturing, with a proven track record of pulling off deals considered impossible, is being hailed as the best - and perhaps the only - hope of saving the deteriorating academy buildings from the wrecker's ball.
Cannon said Basic Manufacturing is very interested in saving the structures to preserve community heritage and hopes to develop a mixed-use complex that includes a business development incubator and a cultural arts center.
Basic Manufacturing's interest in the property was revealed earlier this week when a report on the academy's future was released by a mayor's task force appointed to study the feasibility of preserving the structures.
Collier Hienz has indicated it has no interest in developing the buildings for commercial use and wants to sell the property to free investors' money that has been tied up for years. A Collier Heinz spokesman has said demolition of the buildings is an option if the property can't be sold as is.
Basic Manufacturing envisions the academy, with original facades preserved and interiors extensively renovated, as "a place to grow new companies," Cannon said.
He hopes to attract established national companies that provide services needed by newly started businesses - such as legal, accounting, design and advertising services - to locate in the academy buildings.
"We want firms that already have a good business and who would like to spend some time and effort helping develop new companies," he said. "We see (the academy) as a place where new high-tech companies could flourish, where there can be an unleasing of creativity."
But pulling together the purchase will be extremely complicated. The buildings, their entrances boarded to keep vandals and transients out, are a fire hazard and present liability problems for the owner.
Not only would nationally established tenants have to be committed, but architectural and engineering studies would have to be done to evaluate structural strength, the buildings brought up to modern seismic codes and financing arranged for the purchase, renovation and operation.
But Cannon is undeterred by the fact that half a dozen developers over the past 12 years have failed to put together a development on the property.
"We want this to come to life as a community thing - a showpiece that says entrepreneurism can work in Utah," Cannon said. "What we need is to get inertia behind the project, because it's never had that inertia."
Ownership of the academy reverted to Collier Heinz last year when nothing-down real estate guru Robert Allen defaulted on his 1984 purchase. Collier Hienz originally purchased the property from Brigham Young University in 1976.
The structures were built between 1891 and 1905 as education, gymnasium, administration and classroom buildings for Brigham Young Academy, which later became BYU.