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Utah Theater to be replaced with skyscraper

SALT LAKE CITY — Development of a new downtown skyscraper will soon be underway after the Salt Lake City Council voted Tuesday to demolish The Utah Theater.

The neoclassical theater was completed in 1919, and was once considered the city's premier venue for touring acts. But it has deteriorated significantly over the years and sustained major water damage.

"The theater itself represents a significant liability, and because the costs are significant to even bring it up to a standard that you could use it, it was very difficult to determine any value for the structure itself," said Danny Walz, the chief operation officer for the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City.

According to the Redevelopment Agency, it would cost too much to renovate and turn the theater into something usable.

"How do we then turn this property into something that truly provides public benefit to the public, that the public can still feel like they have an ability and a reason to come down and use it?" Walz said.

A new skyscraper project is estimated to cost around $100 million and will include a new mid-block walkway on Main street and potentially a new downtown park. That's been a priority for the city for a long time.

But the loss of the heater is devastating for theater activitists.

"I believe this is a huge tragedy for Salt Lake, this is literally the last grand movie theater we have in Salt Lake," said Save the Utah Theater Organization founder Pete Ashdown.

The theater was bought 10 years ago for just over $5 million dollars. The value today is about a million less.

"It would be nice if the developers woke up and saw that there was a public demand for restoring the theater and change their minds about what they have plans for there," Ashdown said.

So far, developers have not announced a date for the demolition.

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