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IS S.L. BUILDING IN DANGER OF COLLAPSE?

A developer of a downtown office tower and parking garage says construction crews have stopped work around the historic Utah Savings and Trust Building because they believe it might collapse.

Kem Gardner, president of Boyer Co., told the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency Board - the City Council - that he was "putting them on notice" about the danger that exists with the building at 235 S. Main on Block 57. The Boyer Co. is building the One Utah Center office tower and underground garage.General contractor Jacobsen Construction Co. and an engineering firm believe the building could be damaged or collapse from construction, which includes vibrations from driving pilings. Denver-based Schnabel Foundation Co. refused to continue shoring the old building.

"The USTB building structure in its present condition is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous buildings in Salt Lake City," Salt Lake engineer Ronald J. Reaveley said in a letter to Gardner.

Reaveley said the seven-story building, constructed in the early 1900s, is an "extreme hazard" in the event of a moderate or major earthquake. Also, vibrations caused by equipment near the building might make it collapse.

At the same time, the RDA produced a letter from another construction firm Thursday night that said it would be willing to continue shoring operations and from local engineer Edmund W. Allen, who said the building is not hazardous and could be safely reinforced.

Survival of the dilapidated Utah Savings building - listed on the National Register of Historic Places - has been a controversial issue in developing Block 57 ever since RDA renovated, then purchased the structure in 1986 for $2.5 million. The build ing has been unoccupied and boarded up since then. In 1988, the building was found to be heavily vandalized and apparently occupied by transients.

Allen said that although any building of that era is not earthquake-resistant, it could not be classified as dangerous based upon criteria in the Uniform Building Code. For example, the building's rubblestone foundation was not dependent on buildings that were next to it and recently demolished.

After a lengthy discussion, including statements from two board members that the best solution for the building is demolition, Boyer and project manager Gustavson Companies will try to resolve the matter.

Stephen M. Ehninger, president of Gustavson Companies, told the board there are three alternative to the problem, all which Gardner said could substantially delay work on the office tower and parking garage.

A suggestion to demolish the historic building brought opposition from board member Tom Godfrey, who had fought to save the structure.

Board member Don Hale argued that money to save the structure would be poorly spent.

"It should be demolished as soon as possible," Hale said.

Gardner said that it would be the board's responsibility to ensure the safety of the building and help pay extra costs associated with either building around or reinforcing the structure.

He said part of the problem with instability of the structure is that the RDA had not planned on such a heavy plaza structure that will sit atop the parking structure. The new design is requiring pilings rather than a reinforced concrete foundation. It has also meant that contractors had to dig six feet deeper _ a total of about 28 feet from sidewalk level _ near the old building, creating greater possibility of destabilization.

Board Member Nancy Pace said she didn't see it the same way as Gardner. She said if a firm was constructing a building in New York City it would be the reponsibility of the developer to protect an adjacent building during excavation.

Meanwhile, Theodore M. Jacobsen, president of Jacobsen Construction, wrote Gardner that the company will keep its workers away from the building until it can be certified it is safe. The company also wants to be indemnified against any claims or losses related to damage or collapse of the building.

Gardner said work will continue on other areas of Block 57, including the office tower. He is concerned that delays may worry construction lenders who have used the parking structure as collateral. Both the tower, which is ahead of schedule, and parking structure need to be finished before the tower can be occupied, he said.

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Three alternatives:

-Find a contractor willing to reinforce the historic building.

-Substantially redesign a southern low-rise portion of the new office and parking structure, which is currently designed to nearly abut the historic savings and trust building.

-Demolish the old structure, which would require up to six months to go through both a Planning and Zoning Commission process and Historical Landmark Committee process.