SALT LAKE CITY — I am standing with a bunch of guys with dust on their shoes and blueprint ink under their fingernails smack in the middle of the living room of a seven-figure penthouse in downtown Salt Lake City with a killer view of the Wasatch range.
Luckily, the owners aren't home.
They don't even know who they are yet.
We are standing in one of the four penthouse units that make up the top, or 20th, floor of The Regent at City Creek, the centerpiece condominium building of the massive City Creek Center project that is, believe it or not, closer to being finished than getting started.
After two years of steady progress, in less than a year from now, knock on steel, The Regent should be home to downtown dwellers in 150 condo units, providing they sell them all, which is looking more and more probable.
For years, as the condos have risen at the edges of the $2 billion, two-block downtown face-lift, the debate has been whether Salt Lake City could possibly turn into Manhattan West, with people residing in high rises next to the train lines.
The answer appears to be, well, maybe.
Dale Bills, a City Creek spokesperson and one of the men wearing a hard hat in the penthouse, reports that The Regent already has 90 reservations for its 150 units — and that's not just talk. Those reservations include $7,500 deposits. The deposits are fully refundable, it's true, but, still, 90 customers are serious enough about living at The Regent that they've tied up $7,500 during an economic downturn when the project is nearly a year out.
Through the block, at the just-completed 90-unit Richards Court condos, Bills reports that 14 units have closed and 13 more are under contract — almost 30 percent capacity.
And next to that, the 185-unit, 30-story Promontory Tower hasn't even started taking reservations, and already people have put their names on what Bills terms an "interest list."
You never know, once the condos are finished, they could be as busy as when they were being built.
Steve Bennett, the Jacobsen Construction site superintendent for The Regent; Dan Turney, the project manager; and Jack Wixom, vice president of public relations for Jacobsen, know better than anyone that they haven't exactly been laboring in anonymity since driving the first pilings for The Regent in October of 2008.
With all the traffic and sidewalk spectators that go hand in hand with building downtown, it's been more like building in a fishbowl.
Steve, Dan and Jack are the other men standing in the penthouse with Bills and me, looking straight down at the more than 200 construction workers who show up daily at The Regent — one platoon of an army of some 1,200 workers spread out every day over the entire City Creek landscape (at its height a year ago, the average daily work force was 1,700).
"It takes a great deal of coordination to do a project like this," says Bennett, a man who also served as a superintendent at the then-Delta Center when it was built in 1991. "Ideally, we'd love to have 20 acres, with plenty of room to stack up all our materials."
"But we don't."
Building in the urban heart of Salt Lake City has its logistical challenges.
There's no parking, for one thing, so deliveries have to be timed to the minute. There's no place for the workers to go on break, so they've had to build their own on-site break room. Then, there are the noise restrictions that limit work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. And there's no working on Sunday — just part of the deal when the owner of the project is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But Bennett accentuates the positives.
"It's like all of downtown is with us," he says. "We've had no protesters, no labor disputes, no serious injuries, no anything really that's exciting."
Although earlier this summer, some base jumpers did sneak in at night, climb to the top and parachute off the cranes.
Potential customers, probably.
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.