The University of Utah is buying coveted property downtown. Here’s how much it’s spending and where it’s going.

The state’s flagship school hopes to have a presence in the heart of Salt Lake City in what’s being called a “migration downtown.”

The University of Utah passed “Go” this week and landed on a coveted spot of property it plans to buy in downtown Salt Lake City.

The space known as City Centre sits along 400 South across from City Library, City Hall and the railroad (or, as it’s referred to off the Monopoly board, the TRAX line).

It will cost $38 million in real money — though it will be paid out of existing university resources, without a request for new taxpayer funds, according to the school. The board of trustees for the state’s flagship school gave its final approval for the purchase Tuesday; the deal is expected to close by the end of July.

The main goal is to expand the university’s presence with a high-profile location in the heart of the city. The early renderings shown in a presentation to trustees Tuesday featured giant, red block-letter Us at the top of the brick façade.

The U.’s Chief Real Estate Officer John Creer described it as “prime visibility.”

“We’re going to start to build a downtown presence,” he added, “at a location that’s a little more prominent.”

The U. moved fast to nab the place, finishing the first required compliance report in mid-February and putting in the offer roughly four months later.

The property has a 10-story building on the edge of 200 East and both an underground parking lot and an adjacent surface-level one that’s on the State Street side.

The building, first constructed in 1986 and renovated since then, will start as a way for the U. to consolidate the handful of smaller business offices it currently either owns (seven properties) or leases (four properties) that are spread throughout downtown — from the Gateway on 400 West to the Business Services Building on 500 East.

The longest of the existing leases runs through 2031. The U. hopes it can wrap those up and cut the annual expense once staff move into the new building. As for the properties it owns, the school hasn’t decided yet what it will do with each of those; it might sell them or rework what the spaces are used for.

“It’ll free up some of these other sites to look at,” Creer said.

(University of Utah) The University of Utah announced on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, that it plans to buy a downtown building to expand its presence in Salt Lake City.

But, beyond office space, the U. hopes to use the building for classes, too, as part of a “migration downtown” for its campus. Currently, the school sits on the east bench of the city, off to the side in what many really see as its own separate town in ways.

By comparison, New York University’s campus is really integrated into the city itself. The U. hopes to get closer to that setup by finding ways to meld its main campus with downtown.

The red TRAX line that will be in front of the new building also connects up the school, which is three to four stops away, and will help with commuting between the locations.

The hope is that the space could ultimately house gaming students, with the U.’s program for that expanding and becoming one of the top-ranked in the nation. And the design of the building will help — it was first constructed to house Cellular One, which later became AT&T, and then later had some local gaming companies. So much of the infrastructure inside is already set up for that kind of work.

It’ll be years before that vision is completely carried out, Creer said. As the school is still imagining what it can do with the space, it will continue to lease space inside to companies already housed there — which take up about half of the inside square footage at the moment — such as Planet Fitness.

The other half of the business that had been in the building recently left, according to a new release from the U., which the school said pressured the owner of the building to sell for a low price. The property previously sold for more than $70 million in a past transaction before the U. got it at roughly half the price.

“This building was constructed really well and probably has 40 to 50 years of life left in it,” said Steve Price, a member of the U.’s board of trustees, during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s just a great building and a great location.”

The board of trustees said getting the space with 238,805 square feet means spending $159 per square foot. To construct a new building on campus, according to the board, it would cost $400 per square foot.

There will be additional costs, though, to renovate the building, Creer noted, with “a few million” currently estimated to update some features inside.

The U. might also use the surface-level parking space, which is about 1.8 acres, next to the current building to construct a new structure, adding cost.

Creer said right now it is all fair (board) game.