Craig Mecham admits he's made a mess on the corner of 2100 South and Highland Drive in Sugar House.
The developer acknowledges the unsightliness of the partially demolished building that once housed the Blue Boutique and the large hole in the ground where an eclectic strip of shops once lined the street.
"It's certainly not what we anticipated and not what we wanted," said Mecham, who plans to construct a high-end residential, office and retail development at the site.
"Frankly, we're embarrassed by it," he said of the construction site. "We wish there was an easy solution to it, but I don't think there is."
Mecham's project came under fire last month after demolition at the site stalled and the interim landscaping work the developer promised had not begun.
The city has since given the developer a deadline of today to begin backfilling and landscaping the site, with a 30-day window to complete the work.
Mecham said he will comply with the order.
"We have no intention of trying to skirt around this issue," he said, "even though there were extenuating circumstances that brought it on."
Demolition work at the site hit a snag when it was discovered that the former Blue Boutique building shares a wall with its neighbor to the west, a building owned by Rockwood Investment Associates. Any further demoli-
tion to Mecham's building likely would inflict serious damage to Rockwood's building and possibly cause it to collapse, the developer said.
The neighboring building used to house the Maridadi Gallery and the (M)adam & (St)eve erotic bakery. Leann Wilson, who runs the bakery, said the shop closed on May 23, and she's looking for a place to relocate within Salt Lake City.
Company officials and attorneys of both property owners have been meeting for the past few months to try to solve the problem but have yet to come to a resolution, Mecham said.
Property owners in 1938 agreed to allow the building now owed by Rockwood to be built using the west wall of the former Blue Boutique building. In order for Mecham's building to come down without harming its neighbor, a new wall would need to be built inside the Rockwood building to support the structure.
Last week, Mecham sent a letter informing Rockwood that demolition will resume by July 1 and asking the company to construct a new wall or make other preparations.
That deadline doesn't line up with the city's timetable. Even if demolition resumes July 1, the city has mandated that cleanup and landscaping of the site be complete by about that same time.
The landscaping plan filed by Mecham to obtain a demolition permit calls for the hole in the ground to be filled in and a 15-foot berm of ground cover along the borders of the construction site to be installed, along with trees lining the property.
Estimates for the landscaping work range between $26,000 and $66,000, Mecham said, and all of it would be pulled out when construction resumes.
"It seems to be a little strange to landscape and dig it back up," Mecham said, "but I'm not here to pass judgment on that. We didn't meet our deadline, and now we're going to pay the price."
In a letter to Mecham dated May 23, the city also requires immediate securing of the site with sturdy fencing and removal of all construction debris visible from the construction site or the public right of way. It also orders the developer to remove as much of the former Blue Boutique building as possible and paint what remains to match the color and shade of the existing buildings.
Mecham said his attorney is drafting a response to the city in which the developer plans to express concerns about the requirements including possible safety issues with painting the building but also to inform the city of the company's plans to comply.
Salt Lake City building official Orion Goff said the city wants to maintain "an open dialogue" with Mecham to help the project move along.
"We like the project and want to see it finished," Goff said.
However, the city has fielded complaints from Sugar House residents who are upset with the project's blighted state.
"The community is really holding our feet to the fire on the enforcement of this," Goff said.
Mecham is planning to build abutting seven-story buildings with ground-level retail topped with office space in one building and residential units in the other. A three-level underground parking garage also is planned as part of the project.
Plans call for construction of 51 residential units, ranging in size between 1,600 and 2,800 square feet, as well as 120,000 square feet of office space and 40,000 to 45,000 square feet of ground-level retail.
Mecham said the project seeks to recapture the unique look of Sugar House, with the new buildings using materials and designs that make it compatible with the area's historic structures.
"This project will benefit Sugar House," he said.
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