Once a historic Utah hotel, then a pile of asbestos and now an indicted owner: What’s next?

Developers had planned to transform the Broadway Hotel into housing after it fell into disrepair. Instead, it became a toxic debris pile.

Left: (Harry Shipler via Utah State Historical Society) The Hotel Tooele in Tooele in 1910. Right: (Environmental Protection Agency) The debris pile that remained in 2022 after the hotel burned in 2020.

The historic Broadway Hotel was once the crown jewel of Tooele’s burgeoning “New Town” business and residential district.

But the stately hotel that stood on the corner of Date and Broadway streets fell into disrepair decades ago, the start of a string of bad luck that’s marred the property since its glory days more than a century earlier.

Developers swooped in with a plan to renovate it into affordable housing in the early 2000s. That stalled, and squatters eventually moved into the 21,000-square foot shell of its former self instead, FOX 13 reported.

The brick building ultimately caught on fire in July 2020, forcing its owners to demolish it, creating a pile of carcinogenic rubble that sat out in the open for more than a year.

All the while, asbestos was free to diffuse into the area, home to three nearby elementary schools, as the city waited for one of the building’s owners to clean up the mess and move forward with the project. But he never did.

That’s why city and county officials asked the Environmental Protection Agency to step in, prompting federal contractors in 2022 to remove the more than 3,000 tons of toxic debris from the site.

Now, building co-owner Daniel Brett, 68, is facing federal charges after a grand jury handed down an indictment for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The promise of more housing in Tooele County’s largest city remains in limbo as the case flows through the court system.

Tooele city officials declined to speak with The Salt Lake Tribune about the property’s future. But since at least 2021, city officials apparently believed in and backed Brett’s plans.

Jared Stewart, Tooele’s economic development coordinator, told FOX 13 at the time that “the most effective thing to do is work together” with him. Two years earlier, the Tooele redevelopment agency had approved a sweetheart tax increment reimbursement deal for the development, according to the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.

“I have only good things to say about the property owner,” Stewart told FOX 13 in 2021. “Things are going to get redeveloped, and it just takes a little time.”

Brett did not immediately respond to The Tribune’s request for comment Friday.

A hotel befitting of a ‘modern mining metropolis’

Before Tooele became Utah’s second-biggest county, its city with the same name first began to boom in 1909 as “New Town.”

Hundreds poured in at the time to work on — and then in — its new smelting plant, as former alfalfa fields were cut into parcels and auctioned.

“Surveyors, engineers, railroad laborers, carpenters, masons and contractors are hard at work making a city on the new townsite,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported in 1909, noting that “up on the mountainside to the east the work on the smelter plant is being rushed as fast as material can be brought.”

The article’s headline said the new development took on “the air of a modern mining metropolis.”

Business owners quickly began to “transform the desert waste” into a “thriving business community” to accommodate the influx of workers and families. The then-named Tooele Hotel was a “striking instance of the ingenuity and progressiveness” that led to such changes, The Salt Lake Herald-Republican reported in 1909.

The newspaper called it “one of the finest hotels in Utah outside of Salt Lake” — a claim bolstered by the hotel’s ability to provide both hot and cold running water.

But within the materials used to construct such a grand building — the thermal system and boiler, the wall plaster, the rolled vinyl flooring and its roof — were fibers of carcinogenic asbestos, according to charging documents filed this month.

When the building was finally torn down, it became a danger to the community, including residents, businesses and the young children who attended any of the nearby elementary schools, according to the EPA.

Alleged Clean Air Act violations

Cleaning up the site would prove to be too costly for its developers, FOX 13 reported. As the debris pile sat, it released “friable” — or easily crumbling — asbestos into the area.

It posed an “asbestos inhalation threat to trespassers and other individuals who enter or live near the Site,” according to the EPA, and officials worried that the asbestos fibers would migrate off-site with time, potentially threatening community members residing further away.

After local officials asked the EPA to step in, contractors began remediation work in February 2022 and finished removing the debris a month later. The disposal cost approximately $1.1 million, according to the charging documents.

Federal prosecutors allege that Brett violated the Clean Air Act in three ways. First, they say the demolition crews he hired to raze the hotel five months after the fire weren’t trained on how to demolish a building containing asbestos, according to the charging documents.

And while Brett allegedly agreed to dispose of the debris, the “demolition pile” remained at the site for 15 months, uncovered and not kept “continually wet,” as the Clean Air Act requires, federal prosecutors argued.

Prosecutors argue this all constituted “knowing endangerment” to the community.

While it’s not clear what exactly will happen at the site, court documents indicate federal prosecutors asked that Brett be “prohibited from being employed in any construction, or land development/redevelopment capacity,” according to court documents.

They also asked that he be barred from selling the property until the case is closed.

Brett is scheduled for an initial appearance in federal court on March 14 at the United States District Courthouse in Salt Lake City.