Odd Fellows Hall will move Wednesday

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SALT LAKE CITY -- For months, the historic Odd Fellows Hall has been in limbo, stuck on rollers ready to move, while two companies fought over it. Now, it's finally going to get moving. The stalled project is picking up steam and, by Wednesday afternoon, the building should be at its new location at 39 W. Market St. in downtown Salt Lake City.

The two companies involved have been battling each other in court, and they're keeping mum about what's changed. But workers on site and government officials confirmed to us Monday the plan is to start at 8 a.m. Wednesday. They'll move the building across Market Street to a new permanent address.

The fact that workers are even on the job site qualifies as news. Emmert International walked off the job months ago in a contract dispute with Layton Construction.

The federal government is spending $6.7 million for the historic building to be moved to make way for a new courthouse. It's a goal supported by some bystanders like Brad Walton, who's been keeping an eye on the project.

"I think it's worthwhile to save historic buildings," Walton said. "I think historic preservation is something that gets neglected in a lot of cities, and it gives character to downtowns."

But when the two companies locked horns and began battling over contract terms, even some who support the goals, wondered if the project was sound.

"It seems there's a lot of money being spent on a project that might be done with less cost," Walton said. "But I don't know that for a fact."

Another interested bystander, Larry Swift, also has questions.

"From the beginning I've thought it would be cheaper to dismantle the bricks and put them back in place across the street rather than risk the move," Swift said. "But I'm not in that business, so I really don't know."

The Odd Fellows Hall was already up on Emmert's rollers when that company walked out. Layton Construction accused Emmert of holding the building hostage. After they dragged the contract dispute into court, a federal judge ordered them to talk it out with a mediator. The companies won't say what resulted from the mediation, but the move appears to be back on track. It was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the federal agency that's paying for the move. Sally Mayberry of the U.S. General Services Administration said the move will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday and is expected to take about three hours. She said the $6.7 million price tag has not changed.

If the move really does happen this week, it will be a relief to businesses along Market Street. They've had to live with cyclone fences, barricades and a closed street a lot longer than anyone expected.

"I hope they don't end up with a pile of bricks in the middle of the street," Swift said. "(But) if they think they can do it, I mean, these guys are pretty experienced, and so they should be able to do it."

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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