Salt Lake City’s landmark Peery Hotel gets a new investor, along with guarantees its historic architecture will be preserved

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A view of the lobby of the Peery Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City in 2002.

A new investment deal is set to pump money into improvements at the Peery Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City while also guaranteeing the historic landmark is preserved.

In a joint announcement with Preservation Utah, Cleveland-based GBX Group said it had purchased a stake in the 109-year-old hotel once frequented by the wealthy railroad travelers drawn to its running hot water. The company has also entered into a preservation easement on the property at 110 W. Broadway.

GBX Group, a privately held firm specializing in historic properties in urban markets, said it had been looking to invest “in buildings that are both historically significant and serve as catalysts for community revitalization and future development.”

"In the Peery Hotel we have found that and much more,” Antonin Robert, GBX’s president of community development, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for GBX Group did not disclose how much it was investing nor offer details on renovation plans, which she said were in early development stages. The company did say the firm would work with the building’s main tenant, Christopher’s Prime Tavern & Grill, to make the Peery “a prominent and competitive historic hotel choice downtown.”

The transaction gives GBX Group majority ownership in the boutique, 73-room hotel at the northwest corner of 300 South and West Temple, which it now shares with Dan Norville, president of Norcap, a real estate investment firm based in Los Angeles.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) The Peery Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City in 2002.

Regina Baker, GBX’s vice president for marketing, said the Ohio company had also been attracted to the Peery Hotel deal by strong and consistent growth in the city’s real estate market and its hospitality sector, along with the trend of economic renewal in its central business district. She also praised the city’s many architectural assets.

“GBX Group sees Salt Lake City’s unique history and heritage reflected in its buildings,” Baker said via email. “These unique architectural elements are important to preserve for future generations.”

The firm reportedly focuses on connecting investors with historic urban properties offering significant federal, state and local tax benefits as a way of stimulating development. Since 2001, according to GBX Group’s website, it has completed over 100 such projects in 18 states.

The company said the Peery Hotel would continue to be run by independent hotel operator Interstate Hotels & Resorts, headquartered in Virginia. Interstate, which manages the Peery as part of its Ascend Hotel Collection, operates a total of eight hotels in Salt Lake City along with the historic Bigelow Hotel in Ogden, its website said.

GBX’s preservation easement ensures the Peery’s historic character and unique architecture features will be permanently protected in the face of current or future development, a spokesman for Preservation Utah said.

Built in 1910, the Peery Hotel is what’s known as a railroad hotel, catering in its early days to well-heeled travelers and boarders drawn to the state by a booming mining sector at the dawn of the 20th century. Its roomy lobby, electric lights and hot and cold running water made the three-story hotel a modern and popular destination by the standards of the day.

(Brodi Ashton | For The Salt Lake Tribune) The dining room at Christopher's Prime Tavern and Grill, a primary tenant of the Peery Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

The hotel has reportedly operated continuously since it was built by the two sons of David Harold Peery, a prominent Ogden merchant and banker. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also showcases an early Prairie style of architecture with Classical Revival motifs, according to Kirk Huffaker, executive director of Preservation Utah, formerly known as Utah Heritage Foundation.

Huffaker said GBX's easement "comes at a critical time in the continued revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City."

"As one of the few remaining railroad-era hotels that is open to the public, ensuring its preservation and stewardship in perpetuity is a tremendous gift to the community and to Utah's heritage," he said.

The Peery Hotel is now the third building in the city's core to be protected by a Preservation Utah easement, Huffaker said, joining the Commercial Club building on Exchange Place and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall on West Market Street.

The Peery Hotel easement, he added, would likely qualify investors for federal tax breaks on improvements to the hotel and other potential credits.