The group Save the Utah Pantages revealed their counter proposal to Salt Lake City’s plan to demolish a 100-year-old theater in downtown. Earlier this month, Save the Utah Pantages promised proof-of-concept of their vision for the Utah Pantages Theater, and Friday the group released its vision of a restored theater. 

Photo from lobby of the Utah Pantages Theatre. Photo from Matterport camera by Owen Butler.
The decrepit lobby of the Utah Theater in 2020. Photo by Owen Butler, courtesy J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah via Pantages Theatre Archive.

But is it too late? The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City, which owns the property, has an existing deal with The Hines Group and The LaSalle Group. The developers propose demolishing the existing theater and adjacent retail shops to build a 31-story high-rise apartment building. The RDA contract sells the property to the groups for the sum of $0 in exchange for a downtown public park, a public walkway and affordable housing.

To the RDA board, while they’re still hammering out some of the details, this is a done deal. When Save the Utah Pantages previously offered to buy the property to restore it, the city responded, “The RDA is under contract with another entity for the purchase of the property and is conducting due diligence accordingly, thus we will not answer any questions about our current agreement or obligations.” 

The unassuming exterior of the Utah Theater in 2020. Photo by Libby Haslam, courtesy J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah via Pantages Theatre Archive.
The unassuming exterior of the Utah Theater in 2020. Photo by Libby Haslam, courtesy J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah via Pantages Theatre Archive.

Save the Utah Pantages hopes to thwart the high-rise deal by gathering enough signatures for a  voter initiative. If the group succeeds, come election season, Salt Lake Residents could make the ultimate decision. But what’s to stop the redevelopment plan from moving forward, and demolishing the theater, in the meantime? It’s unclear exactly how the new proposition could impact the sale, if at all. Still, the effort persists.

On Thursday, Salt Lake City officially posted the Proposition Information Pamphlet—the first of Save the Utah Pantages’ initiative plans. However, the same day the required signatures (all 8,000 of them) would have been due to the city. 

To push the deadline, Save the Utah Pantages decided to resubmit their proposition, which would give them another full year to solicit signatures (an April 15, 2022 deadline).

Save the Utah Pantages' vision for a restored Utah Theater. Rendering by Bowen Studios.
Save the Utah Pantages’ vision for a restored Utah Theater. Rendering by Bowen Studios

“We’ve beefed up the initiative as well,” said Michael Valentine, founder of Save the Utah Pantages. This revised restoration plan includes not only bringing the building up to code and modern safety standards but creating a downtown historic theater district—along with the Capitol Theatre—to protect the sites from future demolition (unless they are “irreparably damaged by earthquake and/or catastrophic fire in addition to all other standards for demolition of a Landmark Site”). 

Artist rendering of Hines' 150 S. Main St. redevelopment plan to replace the Utah Pantages Theater
Artist rendering of Hines’ 150 S. Main St. redevelopment plan to replace the Utah Pantages Theater

The RDA has continued with the plan to redevelop the property. The Salt Lake City RDA deal with Hines and LaSalle would add to the skyline one of the tallest buildings the city has ever seen. It would house 400 apartment units, including 40 affordable units. 

You can read more about the current plan to redevelop the 150 S. block of Main St. and the history of the Utah Pantages Theater in Salt Lake magazine’s previous story on the deal, Is It Too Late to Stop Demolition of Historic Utah Theater?

The public comment period for the redevelopment project will remain open until April 26.


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