Why This Downtown Salt Lake Office Skyscraper Is Being Converted To Housing

On Friday, vehicles drive past the South Temple Tower in downtown Salt Lake City. The 56-year-old office building is set to be renovated and turned into new housing. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

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SALT LAKE CITY – There was a brief window in South Temple Tower’s history where it transformed the Salt Lake City skyline.

While other skyscrapers have since overshadowed it for the past 56 years, the building is once again poised to transform the city.

Global development firm Hines announced Friday that it has acquired the 24-story building with plans to renovate it and convert 217,000 square feet of office space into a 255-unit “luxury multi-family tower” in the near future. . Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal was completed last week.

The project is expected to begin in early 2023. It is the first such project in the company’s history anywhere in the world, according to Dusty Harris, Hines’ senior managing director.

“The intention is to reuse as much of this building as possible; for environmental and sustainable reasons, we want to use as much of the building as possible,” said Dusty Harris, Hines Senior Managing Director, adding that the project aims to help with the rapid growth and housing needs of downtown Salt Lake City.

A shift in markets

The South Temple Tower, located at 136 E. South Temple, was completed in 1966 under the original name of the University Club Building. The 274-foot office building served as the tallest downtown skyscraper before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints office building was completed in the early 1970s.

It’s not even in the top 10 tallest buildings today, especially with a slew of new buildings set to drastically alter the cityscape over the next few years to match the fastest growing section of the city.

While the South Temple Tower has performed very well over the years, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on corporate desire for its offices. Harris said since the COVID-19 pandemic, part of the office space market has been in decline while residential housing market demand has shown no signs of slowing down.

Harris said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hines uses this office-to-residential building model in the future, but that’s something that’s likely to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as offices and residential buildings are designed so differently. Also, the newer state-of-the-art office buildings are doing quite well, but some of the older buildings are not.

In this case, South Temple Tower’s smaller floor plates and fewer parking options made it difficult to entice businesses to want to work there. There are only a “handful” of tenants in different industries using the building as office space today who are aware of the new plans, according to Harris.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for converting an office building into a residence,” he said. “I think they’re very complicated. … I don’t expect all the office buildings in Salt Lake to be converted into housing. In fact, I’m pretty optimistic about the future of the office, but i think it will be the very best buildings that continue to thrive and do well on the office front and then there are buildings like the one we just bought that have struggled as a building offices for a very long time.

The ground-level retail and dining space is likely to remain, although there may be some changes to what it looks like in the future.

Meeting a need for more housing

Downtown Salt Lake City and Central City in District 4 grew by nearly 6,500 people between 2010 and 2020, leading all districts in the city. The next wave of new structures is also expected to double downtown residential capacity and provide all sorts of new businesses over the next 24 to 30 months as well.

One such project is the Main Street Tower overseen by Hines. The residential structure has come under intense scrutiny as the company demolished the century-old Utah Pantages theater earlier this year to make way for the 31-story residential tower. A group that tried to save the building sued the company and the city over the plans; court records show the case was dismissed last month.

Other projects include the Astra Tower, which will replace Wells Fargo Center as Utah’s tallest building when completed in the next few years. The next wave should add 4,000 new units.

By converting the South Temple Tower into housing, the city is set to add 255 apartments of various floor plans – studios and one- and two-bedroom homes – without the need for new construction. Hines officials said they were confident the tower provided “a successful conversion process” due to its downtown location, natural lighting capability and floor plans. Architectural firm Hickock Cole is ready to help redesign the floors into living units.

Harris said the company is also exploring the idea of ​​renovating the building’s exterior, which could include more windows.

“Light spaces are livable spaces,” he said. “We’re trying to do that, but it’s too early for me to say for sure what we’re going to do there.”

With the building only acquired this month, Hines does not yet have a specific timeline for the project’s completion. Harris said it “seems reasonable” for it to be completed by 2025 simply because it will be a complex project.


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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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