Brothers Michael and Thomas Grace co-own and plan to renovate the Medical Arts Building, transforming it from office space to 49 residential units with 77 bedrooms. Additionally, three retail spaces will be included on the first floor. Michael generously hosted me on a tour of the building. He and his brother have requested $425,000 from CBID to help with the project which will cost roughly eight or nine million dollars depending on what is included in the cost.
The building dates to 1930 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, a fact which could potentially offer an avenue for some funding for the project. If they receive those credits the building will have to remain rental for a minimum of five years. A number of other buildings downtown have used this source of funding and then converted their units to condos at the end of the five years. Mr. Grace indicated he and his brother do not necessarily intend to do that with this building, though should the market swing back from the current large demand for rental space to stronger demand for purchased condos downtown, the shift could be made.
The building measures ten stories and sits atop one of the highest points downtown, giving it a prominent profile. More than just a simple box building, it features an L shape with two sides covered in beautiful Terra Cotta which is deteriorating rapidly. Three corners of the building feature a Gothic Revival design. Exterior issues include peeling paint, some leaks in the roof, the aforementioned deterioration of the architectural enhancements and a sidewalk leak that is flooding the basement. As extensive as the interior renovations will be, the facade will consume a large percentage of the money given its problems and its enormity.
The interior of the building has some unique features, starting with the beautiful lobby. Original terrazzo flooring, decorative elevators and one of the oldest functional interior mail systems in the city highlight this very attractive space. Some additional remnants from the past have also been retained, included a window labeled “prescriptions,” indicating a pharmacy must have once been located in that space. The terrazzo floors extend throughout the building and seven of the ten floors have original curved-ceiling hallways.
The building has been devoted to office space from its inception, so much of the interior remains as it was initially envisioned, including interior doors with inlaid wood. These will be retained, though some will be for appearance only as the residential units will consume multiple offices. After conversion, current plans call for one studio apartment, twenty-one one bedroom, one bath units, twenty-six two bedroom, two bath units and one three bedroom, three bath unit. One hundred six parking spaces sit beneath the building offering plenty of parking with interior access for residents and customers for the retail space. No other downtown rental property that I know of can offer this luxury.
The upper floors offer spectacular views of the mountains, the river, UT and the city skyline. While prices will obviously vary by size of the unit and, probably, views offered, the average should fall around $1100. The single bedroom units will be less, and seem perfectly suited for students or professors walking to UT, as well as any of a number of people who work in the City County building or any of the federal facilities in that area of town. The space, if filled should easily house a hundred people up to as many as a hundred-fifty.
As I’ve mentioned before, I love this move because it stretches the residential distribution of downtown which is heavily weighted to the northern part of the center city. I also hope that the foot traffic generated between that building and Market Square or Gay Street will encourage new businesses to open along the corridors traveled by the new residents.
So, what do you think? Between the JC Penney Building and this building, CBID would essentially commit all anticipated funds for the next two years with nothing for smaller projects and certainly nothing for additional large projects. I love this building and think this project is very important for what it does in our overall development. Still, there’s no denying that the JC Penney building sits in a prominent spot on Gay Street and desperately needs repair. This is not an easy decision for the CBID board.