Urban Development

Culture + Commerce Combine in a Downtown that Continues to Rise

October 17, 2016 Written by Isaac Riddle

Published in Urban Development

It can be difficult to finish one project on time, but for Salt Lake City and City Creek Reserve Inc., (CCRI) - the real estate investment portfolio of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the task was to finish three projects on time and simultaneously. Their respective projects: the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater (SLCRDA) and the 111 Main office tower (CCRI) will open in the fall, all the while reimagining Regent Street, a new festival street on the backside of both projects, which was worked on collaboratively by both the RDA and CCRI.

It required a unique public/private collaboration to build both the theater and office tower at the same time. The City, through the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake, worked with CCRI to dramatically alter Block 70, the block between 100 and 200 South and Main and State Streets.

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“These projects couldn’t have happened independently of each other,” said Justin Belliveau, the executive director of the RDA. Once the city selected Block 70 as the site for the new theater, it immediately began working to design a new node in the city that would be a destinations in itself. “The goal was to use the Eccles building to create a district” said Stephen L. Swisher, principal at GTS Development, the developers of the theater. “With the pedestrian connections we’ve taken the two streets and created a district.” The concurring construction of both the theater and the office tower made it possible for the city to include street improvements to Regent Street, a mid-block street connecting 100 and 200 South, as part of the larger development.

While the block has several different landowners, the collaboration with CCRI was critical to the block’s success. CCRI owns more than half of the project and working in tandem with the city, through the RDA, allowed for the synergy necessary to turn Block 70 into a district. “We were both very nervous in the beginning, but this has been a landmark experience in terms of a public/private partnership,” said Matt Baldwin, the director of investment for City Creek Reserve Inc. “We wouldn’t hesitate to work with the RDA again.

Both projects will share a 10,000 square foot lobby. It is that relationship that has required unique engineering for the 24-story, 111 Main tower.

111 Main

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Buildings are typically built from the ground up with the weight of the building supported at its foundation. The 111 Main office tower is different. When the RDA informed CCRI that the theater would take up more square feet than originally planned, the team at CCRI had two options: design a slimmer tower with less leasable space or get creative and find a way to incorporate the original design with an expanded theater. The tower’s architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and VCBO Architecture, and engineers decided that larger floor plans were still possible but it would require the building to be constructed in a way never before seen in Utah.

Instead of using the building’s foundation to support its height, the building essentially hangs from a roof hat-truss that supports the building’s weight over the theater. The hat-truss and central reinforced concrete core walls allow the lobby to be column free and columns on the office levels to be leaner which creates more leasable workspace.

The team had to get creative to accommodate the smaller floor plates required for the first five floors to allow for a larger theater. The tower suspends over the theater from floors 5-24. To make this suspension possible, eight miles of steel h-piles (long steel rods) were installed under the ground floor. Temporary steel was erected at the ground floor to support the building during construction. The building consists of 2,100 tons of suspended structural steel, 3,000 tons of rebar, 15,000 cubic yards of concrete and 2,600 cubic yards of concrete seismic footings. Workers had to place the steel strategically to ensure that the buildings weight was balanced. The construction team also built temporary suspension cables that helped balance the building’s weight during construction.

The 24-story office tower is designed to be LEED Gold certified and consists of 440,000 square feet of leasable space, with 21,000 square feet per floor. The 10,000 square-foot lobby is entirely column free with 10 by 35 foot floor-to-ceiling clear glass panels that open up the lobby to the street level. The lobby includes 2,000 square feet of retail along 100 South. According to Baldwin, the lobby will be open during theater performances and will include large art media wall. Designers originally planned for a large painting in the lobby, but realized that the 35-foot windows would essentially bake the painting over time. The media wall will show images of Utah’s landscape.

The 111 Main office tower is built to last. The tower is designed for a 2500 year seismic event. The tower is only one of two buildings in Utah built to the highest seismic design standards, the other is the Public Safety Building on 500 South.

Eccles Theater

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Renowned architect, Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, designed the 2,500-seat, state-of-the-art George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater. Pelli’s firm has designed dozens of theaters and performing art centers including: the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati Ohio, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami Florida and the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“This will be the new model for urban theaters,” said Swisher. The City selected GTS Development to act as the theater’s developer and HKS Architects provided an advisory role. The theater’s grand lobby features two commissioned art projects including a terrazzo floor design by Sugar House artist, Laura Sharp Wilson, titled ”Thread, Trail, Rope and Yarn." Wilson used purple, green, khaki and gray tones to represent the weaving of rugs and cloth by used by Native Americans and early Mormon pioneers. The second commissioned art project is by Rhode Island artist, Paul Housberg. Housberg’s project features colorful glass balustrade on the second and third levels.

The theater includes a galleria which will act as public thoroughfare and connect Regent and Main Streets. The galleria will be the main pedestrian connection for 111 Main workers go to and from the office tower and the Regent Street Garage. To take advantage of 4,000 workers passing through the theater lobby daily, the walls of the galleria will feature posters announcing upcoming shows. The ticket lobby was also strategically placed directly between the galleria and the entrance to 111 Main.

The lobby will house a bistro that will feature a full service restaurant in the south end of the lobby in a kiva type design, dropping several feet below the main lobby level. The bistro will seat 60 inside and even more outside as weather permits. While the theater will be the region’s largest in terms of seating, the theater is designed in a way to make it feel intimate in-spite of its size. The 2,500 seats are dispersed through four floors of seating, three of which are balcony seating. The three balconies means that no seat is a bad seat. The back seats on the main level are 98 feet from the stage, while the back seat on the highest balcony level is 118 feet.

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The city decided to include a black box theater after receiving multiple requests for such from the local arts community. The black box theater will actually be more of a purple box theater with a deep lavender interior coat instead of the traditional black. The room will have adjustable seating and can seat up to 150 people for a traditional theater performance and can hold over 270 people for private parties. The room is unique for a black box theater in that it features floor-to-ceiling windows on the south side that look out to the pedestrian walkway and plaza on Regent Street. Large curtains will cover the windows for theater performances.

“We are very proud of the theater,” said Katherine Potter, senior advisor for the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency. “It will bring some amazing performances to the stage.” According to Potter, over 12,000 people have purchased subscriptions for the debut season. The first show, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical, will start November 15 and run until the 20th. The debut season will include popular Broadway Shows: Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia, The Lion King and The Book of Mormon.

Central to the city’s initial argument on the need of a broadway-style theater, was that current facilities made attracting first run shows difficult. The city argued that a larger theater with a larger stage would make loading and unloading for shows easier while the increased seating would entice shows with the potential for increased revenue from ticket sales. The theater’s loading dock is directly south of the stage and opens right up to the South stage doors. The loading dock is accessed from the Regent Street plaza and has three doors that can accommodate three semis at once.

The city and county are co-owners of the theater. Long before construction started the city and county worked out an operating agreement that will have the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts manage the theater when it opens. Salt Lake County also manages the Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theater and Rose Wagner Center. The city owns 75 percent of the theater property, while the county has 25 percent ownership.

The theater was financed from a mix of public and private funds include $15 million from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and $6 million from Delta Air Lines. Other donors include O.C. Tanner Company, Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, Dell Loy and Lynette Hansen and the Call-Maggelet Family.

The city will host an opening gala on October 21 followed by a free open house on October 22nd.

Regent Street

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Both the 111 Main Tower and Eccles Theater were designed to engage on the street level. Both buildings go right up to the street level with multiple entry ways and large glass panels that allow pedestrians to see inside. Main Street in downtown has been one of the city’s recent success stories. The stretch of Main Street from South Temple to 400 South has become one of the most vibrant corridors in the entire city. The city decided to capitalize on that energy and enliven Regent Street by ensuring that pedestrians have multiple access points to Regent Street from Main.

The galleria will allow pedestrians to access Regent Street by crossing through the theater lobby. Just south of Neumont University in the former Tribune Building a second pedestrian walkway connects Main to the plaza on Regent Street. CCRI, which owns the Regent Street Garage, a ten story parking garage, and the 40 East building on the corner of 100 South and Regent Street, is converting the ground floors of both buildings into restaurant and retail space.

The 40 East building, which was previously walled off at the street level, will be opened up with large floor-to-ceiling windows on both Regent Street and 100 South. A restaurant will occupy the ground floor along Regent Street. Regent Street Garage will offer over 20,000 square feet of street-level retail on Regent Street and place-making signage that will pay homage to theaters of the past. The theater will include two restaurants fronting Regent Street. The entrance to the black box theater will also be off Regent Street. 

When all three projects open this fall, a new entertainment district will emerge in the heart of downtown Salt Lake.