Kristin Murphy, KSL, File

Regents authorize U. public safety building, hotel construction near Dee Events Center

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - Mar. 28, 2020 at 7:47 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Regents on Friday authorized the University of Utah to design and build a 25,079-square-foot public safety building, an adjoining storage building and secured parking structure.

The proposed one-story structure envisioned on 500 South, east of Guardsman Way, will replace the U.’s existing public safety building constructed in 1948.

Robin Burr, the U.’s chief design and construction officer, told the board that the estimated $13.7 million project is the result of an extensive external review of university public safety and will provide enhanced services to the university.

The review was conducted in the aftermath of the on-campus shooting death of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey in October 2018 by a convicted sex offender whom she briefly dated. The man, who lived off campus and was not a student, lied to her about his name, age and criminal history.

Project costs will be covered by the U.’s financial reserves and donations, Burr said. No state funds will be used for construction or design, nor will additional state funds be requested for operation and maintenance beyond appropriations for the existing facility. Regents policy requires that the board OK projects in excess of $500,000.

The board met via video conference to abide by social distancing guidelines intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. During the meeting, Regent Thomas Wright, who is also a Republican candidate for Utah governor, asked how the new facility will improve public safety at the university and better deliver services to students.

Burr said the U.’s current facility is “very poorly laid out. It’s not a building where you could come in and feel like there’s a place where you can reach out to someone, be taken to a safe place for interviews or interaction or support.”

The new building will have a large, open public lobby. A prominent feature of the building will be dedicated space for victim advocacy, she said.

“This is one of the most critical things we have brought to our campus now and we will be allowed to bring to this building,” Burr said.

Because no state money will be used for the project the State Building Board can approve the project without legislative approval. The U. sought the Board of Regents’ approval in advance of building board’s next meeting.

The U.’s board of trustees approved the project in February.

Burr said the public safety building will be classified as an “essential facility” under the building code, which means it must be designed and constructed to remain functional after a natural or man-made disaster. Those requirements impact project cost and design, she said.

Once the new building is constructed, the Public Safety Department building and space in the annex building will be demolished. Corresponding operations and maintenance funding will transfer to the new building.

In other action Friday, the board authorized Weber State University to sell 2.3 acres on its Ogden campus to bring about the development a 100- to 120-bed hotel to serve the university and community. The parcel is west of the Dee Events Center.

The university plans to sell the property to Pillar Investment Group. Under the purchase agreement, the buyer will be required to develop a high-quality hotel on the site within two years, according to a letter by Norm Tarbox, Weber State University’s vice president for administrative services, to interim Commissioner of Higher Education David Woolstenhulme.

Proceeds from the sale, nearly $1.5 million, will be used to acquire land adjacent to the campus better suited to university development.

Once constructed, the hotel will be operated by Providence Hospitality Partners of Denver. According to the company’s website, it is an “approved operator of all major franchises including Starwood, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Hilton Hotels, Radisson, Relais & Châteaux, and more.”

University officials said they were unable to reveal the hotel flag at this juncture.

Marjorie Cortez

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