Keith Johnson, Deseret News
The west side of the Key Bank building is exposed during work on City Creek Center.

It took 20 months and 25 appearances before Salt Lake City government boards and commissions, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now has all the official approval it needs to remake the heart of downtown.

The city's Historic Landmark Commission issued the final stamp of approval for City Creek Center Wednesday night, unanimously supporting the conceptual design for reconstruction of the historic ZCMI facade as part of the $1.5 billion project.

"This is an important decision for us," said Dale Bills, spokesman for City Creek Reserve Inc., a development arm of the LDS Church. "We're grateful to the commission for their careful deliberation and their recommendations."

The ZCMI facade, a staple of downtown since the 1870s, is slated to return to Main Street as the storefront for Macy's. Plans call for the department store to serve with Nordstrom as co-anchors for the 20-acre retail, residential and office development.

The developers needed permission from the Historic Landmark Commission because the facade is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, developers presented a revised design of the new building using the historic facade in response to concerns expressed by the Historic Landmarks Commission at a June 4 meeting.

Commissioners didn't like the idea of a recessed entrance that created a galleria or corridor between the facade and the actual store, saying it was not street-friendly and made the facade feel more like an intrusion than an asset.

Another issue was the opaque glass planned for the second- and third-level windows, which some commissioners felt created dead space.

Working with the city's architectural review committee, the developers did away with the set-back entrance and modified their plans for the windows to meet commissioners' approval.

The revised design calls for most of the street-level windows to be used for displays, replacing what had been the recessed entrance. Upper-level windows will use reflective glass with lighting hidden between the facade and the new building to illuminate the historic architecture.

Kirk Huffaker, executive director of the Utah Heritage Foundation, said many buildings historically were lit in a similar fashion.

"I think it's a great plan," Huffaker said during the public discussion. "I commend this version."

The three-story ZCMI facade underwent careful disassembly last fall and was put into storage so the old Macy's building could be demolished.

E-mail: [email protected]