In another sign of how Utah’s capital is rapidly transforming, demolition crews started ripping down the vacant Sears store building in Salt Lake City this week.
The familiar retail locale, occupying all but a small corner of the city block at 745 S. State St., has been vacant since 2018, when the chain shuttered 18 Sears and 45 Kmart stores nationwide it deemed unprofitable.
It was built in 1947, part of an American heyday for all-in-one department stores and back when Sears leaned toward a midcentury modernist architectural style in its construction.
After being granted a demolition permit by the city in early October, excavators summoned by the site’s new owner — Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare — had reduced about a third of the building to rubble as of Wednesday.
The health care and hospital system bought the empty building and nine adjoining parcels on the block, including a former Sears appliance and auto repair center to the west, in December.
While officials with Intermountain have not confirmed their plans as yet, multiple sources familiar with them have told The Salt Lake Tribune it intends to build a new medical facility there to replace LDS Hospital, located in the Avenues.
Intermountain spokesperson Jess Gomez said in August the land was purchased “for future use to enhance health care services available to area residents” but declined to elaborate.
Intermountain, Gomez said, is “continuing to develop and evaluate our plans for the property but have not finalized those plans as of yet.”
He also confirmed the building was “pretty dilapidated” and that safety was a primary reason for the demolition.
Police records obtained by The Tribune indicate the vacant store had also evolved into something of a magnet for trespassing, vandalism and occasional burglaries during the past three years.
Officers responded to more than 300 calls for service at addresses on the Sears block from January 2019 through July of this year, according to police logs.
The demolition comes as the city is experiencing a historic surge in commercial and residential construction that will leave its downtown skyline changed forever.