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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Raju Shah, one of the owners, looks over the project.

One of Salt Lake City's original gems will soon return to its former glory, thanks to yearlong renovation and the vision of its owners.

The Walker Center, 175 S. Main, will provide 110,000 square feet and 16 floors of downtown office space once renovation is complete. Raju Shah of Vectra Management Group, which owns the building, said the goal in renovating it was to keep its historical structure while turning it into Class A, or high quality, office space.

"Our vision is to be the best," he said. "You won't find anything like this anywhere else. We want to bring character and a high level of design not usually found in historical buildings."

Renovations on the building started in fall 2006 and are expected to be complete around the end of September. The cost is estimated to be between $10 million and $15 million, Shah said. Tenants already in the building were not required to move while the building has been undergoing renovation.

Not all floors are being renovated at once. Floors 6, 8, 12, 13 and the main lobby are the first parts of the building to receive a face-lift. However, Vectra hopes to eventually refurbish every floor and the exterior of the building.

In April, AmericanWest Bank announced its plans to become the building's anchor tenant and anticipates moving into the 7,500-square-foot office at the end of the summer.

"We are very excited to have AmericanWest Bank as the ground floor office tenant," W. James Tozer Jr., of Vectra Management Group said at the time. "We are doubly delighted to return the building to its historical mission of serving banking customers."

The sixth floor is designed to be one of the gateways for the building, and a glass-enclosed sky bridge will connect the Walker Terrace (parking garage) with the Walker Tower. The six-story terrace was refurbished last year and boasts 419 parking stalls.

The building has been equipped with a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system to provide better energy efficiency with boilers that turn on progressively according to need. The original set-up of the building allowed for many floors to have only a men's or women's restroom. Each floor is now equipped with ADA-compliant restrooms for both.

Shah said the basement is being converted into a 2,000-square-foot glass-enclosed gym for employee use, complete with cardio equipment, circuit training and free weights.

Security on the building has also been revamped. Closed circuit televisions will monitor activity in and around the building with roving patrols and card access as additional safety features. A concierge in the lobby will direct visitors to the appropriate floor.

Occupancy of the building hovers around 50 percent. Some tenants left before Vectra Management Group bought it, while others stayed. Still others have been enticed by the newly renovated office space in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Shah said the Walker Tower may appeal to smaller tenants who could get lost in other Class A buildings or who want to be in a historic building.

"People like what we're doing doing, so we're getting a lot of positive feedback," he said. "A lot of people say, 'It's so fantastic that you're doing this in the Walker Center downtown.' It's a great feeling."

Office space, depending on its location, will go for anywhere from $19-$24 per square foot. Tenants have the opportunity for a great view of downtown, especially the Gallivan Center, Shah said.

The Walker Center was originally built in 1911 by the Walker brothers to house their mercantile and growing banking business. It was the tallest building between St. Louis and the West Coast when it was completed in 1912.

Shah says the overall goal is to bring back one of the gems of downtown Salt Lake City.

"For us, it's a pleasure to be involved in the (Walker) Building," Shah said. "This building is a real statement in the downtown area. We feel we're going to fit in very nicely in the downtown landscape," Shah said.

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