Salt Lake school wants to tear down dilapidated building to expand; says city is holding up demo

SALT LAKE CITY – A school that helps former drug addicts, convicts and the homeless get back on their feet wants to expand their operation, but says the city isn’t making it easy.

The Other Side Academy is a non-profit organization that provides vocational training for people trying to turn their lives around.

The school owns a historical home on 46 South 700 East. Since sitting vacant for the past 15 years, it’s become an eye sore and environmental hazard.

“Parts of the roof will keep falling off down onto the passer byers. It’s been used over a decade by vagrants and homeless so inside there are hundreds of jars of human waste,” said Tim Stay, CEO of The Other Side Academy.

There have been at least three fires which have burned the walls and ceilings, which have asbestos in them. The entire home is crumbling on the inside and out.

“All of the old historic charm has been taken away. We don’t see any way to keep that structure. If we could, we would,” said Stay.

Stay claims Salt Lake City denied a demo permit in November of 2016. In Aug. of 2017, Stay made the request through the Historic Landmarks Commission and was turned down. They’ve appealed that decision and now it’s in the hands of Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

“We’ve been able to take 80 people off the streets and out of the jails and prisons of Utah at no cost to the taxpayers of Utah,” said Stay. “We feel like it should be an easy decision.”

“It’s a building that everyone wants to see taken down,” said Mike Reberg, director of neighborhood and community for Salt Lake City.

Reberg says there’s no hold up on the city’s end.

“We’ve tried to work with them every step of the way.”

Because it’s a historic building in a historic district, the school must go through a certain process before it can be torn down.

“It’s unfortunate that they haven’t moved through the landmark process as quickly as they could have and started the application process when they would have and should have,” said Reberg.

The mayor is expected to make a decision in the coming days.

Stay says if the city rejects the appeal, they'll have to try a different route by bringing in an engineer to do a feasible study. The process could take another year and cost more money.