Plans to demolish the Emporium and neighboring properties on Logan’s Main Street are being put on hold because the city’s Historic Preservation Committee wants to see a more concrete project plan before giving the approval to remove the buildings.
“On Main Street, you have a traditional pattern that is set up,” said committee member Thomas Graham. “There are a bunch of soldiers side-by-side on the business side that face the Tabernacle square. What they are proposing is to cut out the tooth of that. It is not only that the buildings are historic, it’s the context in which they are placed.”
Overall, committee members seemed to support the idea of downtown revitalization and updating the area. However, concerns arose over the tradeoff that would have to be made.
The development proposal Mayor Holly Daines has for the area includes demolishing the Emporium, the three buildings south of the Emporium and the one building immediately north. The current proposal is to replace these buildings with an ice skating rink/community plaza and a retail space. Also included in the proposal is a 136-unit apartment building and a parking structure.
Plaza 45, the building on the south end of proposed demolition, and the building directly north of the Emporium are considered to be in good condition and to still have many of their historic characteristics. The three center buildings are not classified in this same way.
Committee members said they were open to the demolition, but only if they felt like the benefits of the new project outweighed preserving two buildings on either end of the demolition zone.
Daines said the reason she and city staff want to move on with this project now is because they have a good deal for demolition, and the Emporium is expensive for the city to maintain. Although an official seismic study of the building has not been done, city staff said the building was not up to earthquake codes and that building preservation would require costly retrofitting.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, mixed feelings were expressed by those in attendance.
Some downtown business and property owners adamantly opposed the buildings coming down at all, including Gene Needham III, who has suggested an alternative plan for Center Block where buildings on the northwest corner of the block would be torn down to make room for an apartment complex. Needham’s plan includes either buying the buildings from those business owners or moving them to the Emporium. One of the properties Needham is proposing the city buy and demolish, 33 S. 100 West, is owned by the Needham Family Ltd Partnership.
Other attendees urged the committee to wait on approving the demolition plan until a more concrete idea was brought forth.
“I feel there is wisdom in keeping the buildings as they are temporarily,” said Gene Needham IV. “I don’t want to see demolition, I don’t want a hole in downtown. … Once the plan is adopted and understood, as we proceed, I’m all for the development.”
There were others at the meeting that supported tearing down the Emporium and neighboring buildings and urged the committee to approve the decision so the project could move along more quickly.
“Anything that can be done, I think, needs to be done,” said John Booth, who used to be a downtown property owner and told the committee that he had not seen any real solutions come for the parking issues in downtown over the past few decades.
“I think you should let them go ahead and get started on something because if you don’t, 40 years from now when my grandkids are standing here, you are going to be talking about the same damn problems,” he said.
The planning commission will continue the discussion on demolition at its Dec. 2 meeting. Daines said she hoped she will have more concrete plans from the developer for the project by then. The committee also requested the city consider keeping the facades of the two buildings at the end of the demolition zone. Daines said it may be cost-prohibitive, but could be looked at.