Saving historic buildings like Salt Lake's old 'Cop Shop' is vital for the city's cultural identity | Urban Living

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Saving historic buildings like Salt Lake's old 'Cop Shop' is vital for the city's cultural identity

Urban Living

Posted By on November 22, 2023, 4:00 AM

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I'm volunteering to serve on a committee that is analyzing proposals from developers to update and transform what many of us remember as the old "Cop Shop" downtown, formerly the Northwest Pipeline building at 200 South and 300 East.

Various Salt Lake City employees, local folks with historic preservation knowledge, architects and two of us from the city's Historic Landmarks Commission recently toured the boarded-up building that was erected in the 1950'. It's been vacant for some time and now the owner, Salt Lake City, is seeking proposals to save this old structure.

Why not just tear it down? Well, it's one of the few architectural remnants of a construction style from 80 years ago and we, as a City, could prioritize bulldozing old buildings and losing part of our past or, instead, saving and restoring them for future generations.

You might recall the old First Security Building on State Street and 400 South, which also represents a similar era of construction. It was beautifully restored and is re-used as offices for a local car dealership and other businesses. Most people driving by that corner property might not have known it had been restored, but might notice that it's not your typical-looking high rise.

Both the old Cop Shop (Public Safety Building) and First Security Building have many of the typical features representing the 1950s, like the most obvious—the exterior triple-pane windows, which aren't a normal type of window in new construction. In touring the Cop Shop, we saw that the original built-in interior clock (roughly six feet tall) is still on the wall in the lobby. The terrazzo floors are scattered throughout the building's levels, including the lobby, and a groovy aluminum banister is still intact in the first two-floor stairwells.

Salt Lake City is looking for a developer who will keep these kinds of features in their new plans to build apartments, a hotel, offices, condos or a mix of uses. Our committee is reviewing eleven proposals right now, and a new private or public developer will be chosen in the new year.

One block west is the former data center for what we used to call "Ma Bell," now AT&T. It also has been boarded up, but a developer out of Texas has purchased the boxy-looking building for just under $20 million and will most likely put in hundreds of new apartments there. There was a cool piece of art on the south face of the building that has now been removed and right now, like the cop shop, the place is surrounded by a chain link fence.

Preserving historic buildings is vital for all of us to maintain cultural identity and understand our shared history. These structures serve as tangible links to the past, offering insights into architectural styles, societal norms and technological advancements. They provide a sense of continuity connecting all of us to our roots here, whether we're native Utahns or not.

I can't tell you how much saving historic buildings adds to the character of neighborhoods and promotes sustainable development, as I think it's a given. But this is why I volunteer, because I don't want Utah's capital city to turn into blocks and blocks of ugliness.

About The Author

Babs De Lay

Babs De Lay

A full-time broker/owner of Urban Utah Homes and Estates, Babs De Lay serves on the Salt Lake City Historic Landmark Commission. A writer and golfer, you'll find them working as a staff guardian at the Temple at Burning Man each year.

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