Demolition begins at Mervyns in Orem

Demolition begins at Mervyns in Orem

(Tom Smart/Deseret News)

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OREM — A young boy screamed giddily while pointing at the excavator as the machine shattered the glass structure of the vacant Mervyns building.

Meanwhile, the boy's younger brother sat in their mother's lap with his hands over his ears, crying because of the commotion.

Tuesday, construction crews began to tear down the old Mervyns store as part of the redevelopment of University Mall, later to be renamed University Place to represent the project's goal of becoming the new city center of Orem.

"Sometimes you have to tear things down to make them better," said Rob Kallas, the mall's manager, as part of a small ceremony.

Members of the large crowd at the event included city officials, city royalty, mall employees on break, families with their children, and mall patrons who once shopped at the former chain store.

"I am excited by the turnout. I think the crowd enjoys the destruction because it is something they can visualize, and it's better than shovels," Kallas said later regarding the ceremony.

Several people lounged on lawn chairs, blankets and cars in the blustering wind as they ate their lunches and listened to the remarks given prior the destruction.

"So the wind is blowing, and Mervyns is blowing away, and a new chapter is coming forth," Orem Mayor Richard Brunst said.

Brunst continued his remarks by highlighting the amenities that will be replacing the building, which hosted Mervyns for about 30 years. The mayor mainly focused on the new park that will be "unlike anything you have seen before," he said.

Plans for the park include a large lawn with several water features, seating areas, a large screen to project movies, and a stage for events. There will also be a drop-off zone for vehicles and an area for food trucks to park.

Photo: Tom Smart/Deseret News
Photo: Tom Smart/Deseret News

East of the large lawn will be a children's play area with water features for playing on hot days, climbing structures and a treehouse.

Following Brunst's remarks, he and several Orem City Council members, Miss Orem and her attendants, and members of the Woodbury Corp. — owner of the mall — put on white hard hats and safety goggles, then began ceremoniously swinging at the building with gold sledgehammers.

Unsurprisingly, the sledgehammers only created small and unimpressive craters in the outer decorative concrete molding of the building, even with the combined efforts of the group.

After several swings and a few photos, a construction worker cleared the structure as officials exited the fenced perimeter, while another worker fired up the excavator.

Children sat at the edge of their seats, suddenly paying attention as the excavator crawled toward the structure with its claw aimed at a glass fixture. Screams roared throughout the crowed as glass window panes shattered and pieces of debris clattered to the ground upon contact with the claw.

"Break it in half!" yelled a child as the excavator took a chunk of concrete out of the building at the edge where the roof and outer east wall meet.

However, other children were disappointed by the excavator. "Wait, I thought they were going to blow up," one young girl said to her mother.

According to construction plans, the building will take about five days to tear down, due to the preparations being made by construction crews to grinding the concrete of the building into finite pieces. The pieces will then be used in foundations of future structures in the region to be more environmentally conscious in the creation of University Place.

Cassidy Hansen is currently studying both Political Science and Communications at Brigham Young University, while working as an intern at the Deseret News. Contact her at


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