The Utah Savings and Trust Building, 235 S. Main, was unsafe before excavation on the north and south sides, but the digging has made it doubly unsafe, according to the president of Becho Inc., a shoring contractor.
Lou Lucido said that before the excavation was started and if the building was intended to be saved, reinforcing should have been done on the inside and then excavation would have had no detrimental effect on the building, which was built in the early 1900s.Lucido was replying to a story in last week's Deseret News that quoted John Pace, a Salt Lake architect and chairman of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce's Downtown Committee. Pace told the chamber's board of governors that no structural engineer would guarantee the integrity of the building while pilings are being driven nearby for a parking terrace.
Pace said officials of Jacobsen Construction Co., the company erecting the Utah One Building on the northwest corner of Block 57, bounded by 200 and 300 South and State and Main streets, don't feel comfortable about pounding pilings for the parking terrace close to the Utah Savings building.
Lucido, whose company bid on the project to shore up the old building, said what has happened is typical in a situation where some people don't want to save the old building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. "They should have made the building safe and then excavated on both sides," Lucido said.
Even so, Lucido doesn't believe the building has any historical significance because the architecture and construction materials are nothing unusual.
Wolff Excavating was the low bidder for the shoring project and the job turned over to Schnabel Foundation Co. But officials of that company have refused any more work on the shoring.
Until buildings on both sides were removed, the Utah Savings Building didn't give the impression that it could be hazardous, but it is obvious that in the event of an earthquake the building would come down in a hurry.
The building is six stories tall and about 200 feet long, but because it is only 26 feet wide, it looks very isolated with the old buildings removed nearby. The ground has been excavated to 12 feet below street level on the north and south sides down to the footings, which hold up the rubblestone foundation.
Lucido said the inside could be reinforced by drilling holes in the rocks of the foundation, putting in steel dowels, tying the dowels together with reinforcing bar and spraying with Gunite, a concrete mixture that would cover the steel.
There is some reinforcing on the north foundation of the Utah Savings Building left over from the demolished J.C. Penney Building. Lucido is concerned that because the footings are exposed, the constant freeze-thaw cycle next winter could make the building more unsafe.
Meanwhile, until the City Council and the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency decide what to do about the building, contractors are keeping their people away from the structure for safety reasons. And they hope there isn't an earthquake.