Future of old SLC public safety building: renovate or raze?

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As one major new architectural landmark approaches completion here in Utah, questions are emerging about the building it will replace.

The new Salt Lake City Public Safety Building will make some waves when it opens next year with its state-of-the-art renewable energy features and earthquake-resistant design. But the city will face a bit of a dilemma: what to do with the current cop shop at 300 East and 200 South?

Kirk Huffaker is executive director of the Utah Heritage Foundation. "The options are to sell it for renovation or sell it as clear land," he said.

The old building faces growing signs of age. One main reason it needs replacement is because of concerns it might not be able to withstand a major seismic event.

"You know if it happens, (a) 7.5 earthquake, I'm not sure our old building would withstand it," said Deputy Police Chief Tim Doubt. "If it did withstand it, it would be condemned."

The building is notable architecturally, erected in 1958 in what's called the "international style."

"Certainly the style, the massing of the building where it's several rectangles pieced together, that is very much an international style element," said Huffaker.

Fully renovated, it could double as a location for the TV series "Mad Men."

"The ribbons of windows, with the three parts, that's an international style feature," said Huffaker. "One of the great things about the windows is they're still operable, which is a feature that's coming back in new buildings."

It has one older sibling in Utah. The Ken Garff building at 400 South and Main Street was built by the same architects three years earlier and was renovated for about $12 million.

The city has listed the old police building on the National Register of Historic Places. Though a renovation wouldn't be cheap, the idea is expected to have plenty of backers who think it'd work well for new condos.

"This building would be fabulous as housing, with wonderful views and near downtown," said Huffaker.

The question of what to do with the old building will become more pressing when the new building opens up this summer.


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