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August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Bill Knight helps move window panels into place, with the assistance of a special trolley, as construction crews work on the west side of the Gateway Tower East Thursday.

It's the building renovation equivalent of changing a tire, getting a tune-up and replacing the doors on a car while it's traveling 65 mph on the freeway.

The Gateway Tower East is in the middle of such a transformation now, as workers replace the exterior "skin" of the old Kennecott building on the southeast corner of Main and South Temple with updated glass and stone.

Renovation on the 40-year-old building, which will be renamed the Zions Bank Building once work is complete, was started in March 2005 and is expected to be done on June 1, 2006.

"What makes the project unique is that usually the tenants evacuate the building" during a renovation project of this nature, said Heather Talenah, project manager with Jacobsen National Group, the general contractor overseeing the project. "Having the tenants (Zions Bank) remain in the building forced us to be very, very creative."

All told, about 800 people work in the building, said Robert Brough, spokesman for Zions Bank. Zions leased the building from Property Reserve Inc., the real estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and subsequently sublet two floors to the law firm of Callister Nebeker & McCullough. The bulk of those 800 will remain in the building during renovation, with "a little bit of shuffling" of bank employees to the Eagle Gate Tower and other sites Zions leases downtown on a temporary basis.

Property Reserve declined to disclose the cost of the renovation. However, Talenah put the price tag at $24.5 million.

Currently, construction workers are removing the old face of the building and replacing it with an updated exterior, making it more "compatible" with the adjacent Gateway Tower West building, which was renovated in 1997-1998, and other surrounding structures.

The goal was to create a kind of "gateway concept," said Eric Migacz, vice president of MHTN Architects, which designed the renovation of both buildings.

"The idea is that the (Zions Bank) building, with the other across the street, form a gateway or a portal to Main Street and the central business district," Migacz said. "It is part of an effort to keep the corridor vital and vibrant, and to allow Zions Bank to present an appropriate flagship image, so that this is seen as their building and their image, instead of that of the previous owner, Kennecott. This building won't have a lot of copper on it."

Indeed, workers will remove and recycle upwards of 600,000 pounds of copper and brass when they disassemble the building's old face, according to Kent Gibson, vice president and project manager with Zions Securities Corp., the LDS Church's property management company. The old skin will be replaced using 2,310 exterior stone and glass panels, each of which is lifted by crane and welded onto the building's framework. The rooftop tower crane, which has the highest base of any in Utah history, is connected to the steel columns in the building's elevator shaft, to minimize disruption on the street level, Talenah said.

Work continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Talenah said. In total, about 100 workers participate on any given day, representing about 30 subcontractors.

Tenants are able to continue work from the site largely because much of the tear-down process occurs at night and on weekends, said building manager Allyson Thompson. Business proceeds as usual (or as usually as possible), separated from construction by a temporary insulated protective wall. Few serious complaints have been lodged, Thompson said, and Zions Securities holds weekly "tenant appreciation" events to ease the strain they may be feeling during the renovation.

The last of the old "skin" is expected to be removed within the next few weeks, Talenah said. The new exterior should be in place by the end of January 2006. The next six months will be spent completing the roof (which will prominently sport Zions Bank signage), landscaping, pavement and other finish work.

When all is done, MHTN vice president Peter Moyes said the building — under various and separate contracts — will undergo a fairly comprehensive update, including electrical, telephone and mechanical systems, and the installation of another elevator. The renovation also will make the facility more energy efficient.

"Every element of the building will be adjusted, renovated, modernized and improved," Moyes said.

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