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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Bob Daugherty, president and CEO of Far West Bank, speaks at the opening of a branch in the Walker Center.

When it was originally built, the Walker Center had just one bathroom on each floor— all men's rooms, of course, as usually only men worked outside the home in 1911.

Fortunately for tenants in the newly renovated Walker Center,

the building's new owners strayed from their commitment to staying completely true to the historic aspect of the Walker Center and the multimillion-dollar project includes both modern men's and women's facilities, along with state-of-the-art HVAC and electrical systems.

The underlying goal of the project, however, was to "take a historic building, probably the most historic building south of the temple, and convert it back into its heyday from the outside and convert it into class A office space on the inside," said W. James Tozer Jr., a principal in Vectra Management Group, which formed Walker Center Associates to buy the building in April 2006 for an undisclosed sum.

After more than a year of construction, and some $15 million in project costs, Walker Center principals hosted an open house Thursday afternoon in advance of an evening Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce event.

The building's most visible tenant, Far West Bank, opened for business Thursday on the ground floor of the 110,000-square-foot building. The space is the 18th Utah location for the bank, which was founded in Provo, and will offer personal, business and commercial banking services.

"This is not what you'd call a traditional bank," Far West president and CEO Bob Daugherty said while leading a tour of the new space.

The branch has a "tech center" for customers to conduct online banking and surf the Web while looking out onto Main Street. Meanwhile, tellers — or "personal bankers" as they're called at Far West — and an on-site mortgage lender will offer more personal service.

The renovation project also included restoration of the Walker Brothers Bank vault, which is guarded by the original 5,000-pound door.

"It was really important to us to keep everything as original as it possibly could be, so we took extra time and effort to do that," said Nicole Sherman, executive vice president for Far West Bank.

Ultimately, the Walker Center will house 30 to 40 tenants over 16 floors. Only 750 feet of finished space is still not leased, Tozer said. Parts of the building remain under construction, including ground-level space that will ideally house a retail outlet such as a restaurant, said Chris Kirk with CommerceCRG, the building's leasing agent.

"It's inviting from the street," Kirk said. "This is really the core for downtown."

The Walker Center also features a two-story lobby and a 419-stall parking garage with a sixth-floor skybridge that provides direct access into the building. It will also, eventually, include a replica of the building's historic 64-foot weather tower that has served as a weather indicator for downtown residents for nearly three decades.

Installation of the tower has been postponed several times, but Tozer said the current plan is to place it atop the building beginning Dec. 1 and complete electrification as quickly as possible.

"We're hoping we can turn it on by Christmas," he said. "We're all looking forward to that."

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