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Channel 2 considers move to downtown

New location may liven up station, Main Street

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KUTV Channel 2 is in negotiations to lease space on the ground floor of the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Salt Lake City, which it hopes will result in a more interactive broadcast for the station and will bring energy and excitement to Main Street.

David Phillips, KUTV vice president and general manager, said the station is still in negotiations with Wasatch Property Management to lease the space, but Channel 2 is interested in moving from its current West Valley City facility to Main Street. If all goes well, Phillips said, the deal could be finalized within months.

"We think it'd be an ideal location," Phillips said of the Wells Fargo Center — the former American Stores tower — at 299 S. Main. "It's the premier building in downtown Salt Lake. But also, our whole 'fresh air' campaign has been to get outside, out of the buildings. That would be a tremendous location. A lot of our broadcast would be done outside."

Phillips said he imagined highly interactive shows, many outdoors, including the gathering crowds in the same vein as network television morning shows. The building's proximity to the Gallivan Center, the historic Main Street clock and TRAX station would provide a scenic stage for the station and serve as an attraction for visitors and residents, he said.

"We're excited to join in the effort to rebuild downtown," he said. "It fits who we are, and what we're trying to do."

Dell Loy Hansen, majority owner of Wasatch Property Management, said the contract negotiations are progressing, though slowly.

"The relocation of a major television station is a massive economic undertaking," Hansen said. "It's not a simple lease."

If approved, the lease would include 31,000 square feet, Hansen said. The station would have 15,000 square feet on the ground floor of the Wells Fargo Center, in the current location of the World Cafe. The cafe would be moved to the second floor. Additionally, the station would have 16,000 square feet of space in the basement for production facilities.

The contract is expensive and complicated, Hansen said, and it will require assistance from the city to make it work.

"We're in negotiations with the economic development portion of the city to see what support they may be able to provide to mitigate the cost of a major relocation," he said. "Those discussions have just begun. We're encouraged with the initial response from City Council members."

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson pledged his support and said he didn't expect any major roadblocks to the deal.

"We're extremely supportive and are looking to put serious financial backing behind it," Anderson said. "We need to get the approval of the redevelopment board, which I expect will be forthcoming next week. But we're excited that what was a mere idea and dream months ago now looks like it will become a reality."

Hopefully, Channel 2's move will inspire businesses to locate downtown and consumers to return to Main Street, Anderson said, hinting that another news station also is considering a move to the city center.

All of which brought cheers from Bob Farrington, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

"I think it fits perfectly with the future that the street holds," he said. "Just because they're broadcasting, it will bring a crowd. It'll add some vitality and sends a good signal to other potential property users or people who were thinking of investing in downtown or Main Street — that there's a reason why people want to be in the thick of things."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com