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Regis Hotel shutting its doors

Residents say closing the building will put them on the street

SALT LAKE CITY — If somehow you end up at the Regis Hotel, it's safe to say you've made a bad choice or two.

So says Tina Powell, who has lived in the low-income digs on State Street for nearly two years now. But Powell and the two dozen other people who call the Regis home say it is a "stepping stone" with a "legacy" of success stories — and they're asking city leaders not to shut down the place.

"If they evict these people, the city will be adding to the homeless count," Tim Funk of the Crossroads Urban Center said on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.

The city's Redevelopment Agency, which owns the property, has entered into an agreement with a developer to revamp the site at 253 S. State. And the 25 people who live in the Regis have been given eviction notices.

But now is not the time for a move, Funk said.

"The developer is having a hard time finding someone … who will finance it," he said. "We think the hotel can stay open at least another year."

Regis residents live there "because it's cheap," Funk said. Residents pay $90 a week, and a handful of them make rent by working for the building's management group.

David Hartley, who has lived at the Regis since January 2008, said the RDA was responsible for the hotel's decline; residents have complained of bugs, leaky roofs and a lack of hot water.

"They've just let this place go straight to hell," Hartley said. Still, Hartley would rather live at the Regis than move to one of the low-income alternatives made available by the city.

Lisa Harrison Smith, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ralph Becker, denied claims the city has been a poor landlord.

"I can assure you the RDA has taken very seriously the management of that property," she said. "The city and the RDA together have gone really above and beyond what would be expected from a rental property to ensure every single person has a viable option for somewhere to move."

The newly opened Palmer Court requires background and credit checks, making it unavailable to some. The RDA plans to reopen the Rio Grande Hotel near Pioneer Park next month, but Regis residents said the location and 8-by-10 rooms make it a less-than-desirable substitute.

"The RDA said they gave us viable options," Regis resident Randy Kossak said. "With my background, I can't get in. I'll be living under a bridge after this."

RDA executive director D.J. Baxter said the city is paying around $12,000 a month to keep the Regis up and running.

"The problem is the buildings are literally falling apart," he said. "The repairs they need are not patches here and there. They need entire systems replaced, and those can't be done while the buildings are occupied. It's not a matter of fixing a pipe."

e-mail: afalk@desnews.com