Vasilios Priskos, an immigrant who helped shape the development of downtown Salt Lake City through his extensive real estate holdings, died Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
He was 53.
Priskos came to the United States in 1966, two years after being born in Evia, Greece, to Chris and Tula Prazikos Priskos. The family settled in Salt Lake City and opened the Royal Eatery restaurant in a building on the corner of 400 South and Main Street, formerly known as the New Grand Hotel, that Priskos and his brother, Deno, later bought.
That red-brick structure was one of many properties Priskos came to own in Salt Lake City as the founder and principal broker of InterNet Properties Inc.
“Nobody knows more about the history of downtown structures and parcels than Vasilios Priskos,” Downtown Alliance Executive Director Jason Mathis wrote last year, putting Priskos third on a modern list of the “25 People Who Helped Build Downtown.”
“As a major landowner and deal-maker,” Mathis wrote, “his commitment to the urban fabric of our city is apparent in places like Whiskey Street [323 S. Main] and Caffe Molise [55 W. 100 South], both housed in buildings he owns.”
Priskos also was instrumental in transforming The Salt Lake Tribune’s former office building at 143 S. Main into classrooms and living quarters for students attending Neumont University after the newspaper moved in 2005 to The Gateway shopping district.
More recently, he exercised his influence on that block as the exclusive broker for the development of One/Main Plaza on the southeast corner of 100 South and Main Street. Adjacent to the new George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theater, the 111 tower has nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail space.
Government and business leaders praised Priskos as word of his passing spread Monday.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski called him a “partner and patron. … His work helped change the face of our city and his passion for culture brought us together each year through the Greek Festival, which he helped shepherd. As my friend, I also can’t help but describe Vasilios as an ally, someone who stood with everyone and truly appreciated the rich benefits of celebrating diversity — something that helped me and many others move forward.”
Added Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams: “His steadfast commitment to a vibrant, successful downtown Salt Lake City made our community better.”
Visit Salt Lake President Scott Beck first met Priskos in the 1980s “when he was this handsome Greek guy dating the most beautiful girl in our high school.”
For the past 20 years, they’ve worked together on a number of projects affecting downtown, interactions that prompted Beck to observe “he was as hard of a businessman and as vicious of a sales guy as I’ve ever dealt with. But I never saw Vasilios take a position that would be bad for the city but good for him. He was a civic-minded individual who was proud of the community he lived in.”
“As good as downtown was for Vasilios,” Beck added, “Vasilios was better for downtown.”
Former state senator Scott Howell, who worked with Priskos on the Pioneer Park Coalition addressing downtown homelessness issues, said the developer “immediately reached out to us and said I think I know some shelter space where we could potentially relocate The Road Home. He was so generous and wanted to help his fellow man in any way he could.”
Steve Bogden, principal broker of Coldwell Banker Commercial Advisors, said that in a crazy business like real estate, “we meet every variety of personality — greedy, mean, cold, uncaring, angry, selfish. Then it happens. Along comes someone like Vasilios . . . always a smile, a kind word, honest, helpful and his integrity unparalleled.”
In a Facebook post, real estate agent Babs De Lay bemoaned the loss of “my friend, OUR friend in downtown,” calling Priskos her “unofficial godfather” and mentor. “Salt Lake City has a huge hole in its heart and soul this morning with his passing.”
Added Blaine Walker, former Utah Association of Realtors president: “He was very interested in the quality of life of the city … [and] professionalism in the real estate industry.”
Priskos is survived by his widow, Shauna Bamberger Priskos, and sons Christian, Nico, Alexander and Aristotle. A viewing is tentatively set for Friday evening at Holy Trinity Cathedral, with a funeral Saturday.