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The memory is a little blurry, but Josh Warneke remembers as a young boy cleaning up construction trash, moving boards and sweeping floors to help build the Bible Baptist Church.
He spent most of his childhood in that Taylorsville building, where his father, Marshall, was pastor.
Warneke also recalls being around 12 years old and helping to erect the church’s schoolhouse. By that time, he was old enough to swing hammers and carry shingles up a ladder.
Under that roof and within those walls, Warneke grew up and became a pastor himself.
Now the church, with all those recollections, stands in the way of a road project and has to relocate after 43 years on its foundation.
The Utah Department of Transportation plans to raze the building and others — including dozens of homes — to construct a freeway-style intersection on Bangerter Highway and 4700 South along the border of Taylorsville and neighboring West Valley City.
It would open in 2025 to ease congestion in the area, and follows similar Bangerter projects at 6200 South, 10400 South and 12600 South.
“When you put your sweat and blood into things,” Warneke said, “you don’t like to see it torn down.”
‘Knew this was coming’
The dislocation is hardly a surprise. Church leaders have seen the transformations taking place along the highway for some time.
“We knew this was coming,” Warneke said. “And you can see it happening every step along the way.”
The pastor even contacted UDOT before the plan was announced. But such projects take time, and the department did not have funding then to start working on the 4700 South interchange.
Now that the plan is in motion, the Bible Baptist Church is trying to decide its next move, but it’s difficult because officials don’t know yet what kind of buyout it will receive from the state.
“We’re still kind of in limbo,” Warneke said. “We’ve been looking for properties to relocate to, but we don’t even know how much we have to work with.”
Moving a congregation
To make the new interchange possible, the state would have to acquire more than 17 acres. It would affect 91 parcels — 55 partial property acquisitions (41 residential parcels and 14 commercial ones) and 36 full property acquisitions (29 residential parcels and seven commercial ones).
UDOT hires third-party appraisers to determine the value of the properties. It also takes into account variables such as the current real estate market, and how much it could cost property owners to move into a similar setup to the one they are leaving, said Brian Allen, UDOT project manager. It also covers the cost of any special additions that properties may have and moving expenses.
“It’s just kind of scary” for property owners, Allen conceded. “...We have a very robust relocation process to help people get into a situation similar or better in the future.”
Warneke would like to keep his church on the Salt Lake Valley’s west side. It averages about 85 worshippers at Sunday services.
Apart from the church building, Bible Baptist’s land includes two triplexes, which provide housing for staff and ministry officials who travel to Utah.
The church also uses land in the rear, where folks can garden. “Wherever we relocate to,” Warneke said, “I don’t know that we’ll get to have a little farm like that.”
Losing his church’s place in the neighborhood weighs heavily on the pastor’s mind.
“It’s definitely a huge loss,” he said. “People around here, who don’t really come to the church, say it’d be a shame to see that go because this place is like a landmark.”
The fate of two clinics
Besides the to-be-displaced homeowners wary about reentering a tough housing market, some commercial businesses also will have to relocate. In addition, Life Church Utah, kitty-corner to Bible Baptist, and two health clinics will be partially affected by the roadwork.
University of Utah Health’s Westridge Health Center stands to lose six stalls from its south-side parking lot, but it still has space on the north to accommodate patients.
“We are optimistic,” said Eugenia Smith, the clinic’s outpatient services manager. “It’s going to be a little stressful in the construction, but eventually it is going to be a lot better for our patients. We are going to have better access.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s Taylorsville InstaCare also will lose some of its property.
The road at 4700 South is due to remain closed for about nine to 12 months in 2024. But UDOT and the clinics are working together to ensure patients can access the facilities during the construction.
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.