Salt Lake City buys historic Utah Theater
Downtown » Aim is to turn mothballed classic into center of a film center.
By Derek P. Jensen And Rosemary Winters
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:12/24/2009 10:14:56 AM MST
Salt Lake City has gift-wrapped a dusty downtown jewel for future generations of film fans.
After years of discussion, the city’s Redevelopment Agency agreed Wednesday to buy Main Street’s Utah Theater for $5.5 million.
Now, depending on the renovation cost and mix of tenants, Salt Lake County is eyeballing the onetime downtown destination between 100 South and 200 South as a future haven for film.
“This is really the first tangible step in creating a downtown cultural district,” said RDA Chairman Eric Jergensen, who pushed the board to close the deal with developer Rick Howa before year’s end. “I’m pleased. It’s a benefit for both sides.”
Jergensen said the sale is expected to wrap up by Jan. 6.
Once listed at $10 million, the city had a tacit agreement to finance the purchase of the mothballed theater for $7 million. But by using $2 million set aside for a county facility “near” Capitol Theatre, the RDA board was able to do the deal for $5.5 million cash.
“If the deal closes, that’s fantastic,” said Salt Lake County Council Chairman Joe Hatch, who scolded the city last month for dragging its feet on the purchase.
Hatch notes the county is eager to pursue the renovation and eventual management of what would be a film center, depending on cost. The County Council already has set aside some cash to evaluate that price. An initial estimate pegs renovating just the ornate theater portion of what is a three-building complex at $25 million.
“We can’t know how much it’s going to cost until we know who the tenants are going to be,” Hatch explained.