For years, former Utah Gov. Calvin Rampton had a favorite table at Salt Lake City's venerable Alta Club that overlooked the downtown intersection of State Street and South Temple.
Then, in 1997, the Utah Republican Party moved its headquarters into the Eagle Gate Tower across the street because, as the story goes, party Chairman and fellow Alta Club member Frank Suitter wanted to force the former Democratic governor to look at the GOP banner every day.
Rampton promptly moved from his regular chair facing the Eagle Gate Tower to the other side of the table so he would have his back to the Republican offices.
Twenty years later, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns Eagle Gate Tower and is, therefore, the GOP's landlord, has negotiated a land swap with the Alta Club. The club is putting up a two-level parking garage just to the east of its building, with a possible third level for a fitness center and day spa.
Property Reserve Inc., the church's real estate arm, is even building the structure for the Alta Club, giving it 87 parking stalls with access from 200 East.
In exchange, PRI will take ownership of the 43-stall surface lot across the street from the Alta Club. PRI spokesman Dale Bills said there are no immediate plans for development of that site.
"This is a win-win as far as we're concerned," said Alex Pockrus, Alta Club's general manager. "We have more parking on this side of the street. Our members will save a few minutes getting here from their cars, without having to wait for the traffic light. And part of it will be covered."
The land trade is not without controversy, however, given its location on historic South Temple.
The property gained by the Alta Club was previously occupied by a Mr. Mac clothing store. When that was vacated, the Salt Lake City Council adopted an ordinance putting strict limits on replacing existing buildings with parking structures in the central business district.
"We wanted to make sure there was landscaping," said Councilman Stan Penfold, the measure's sponsor, "and some screening between the street and the structure."
Penfold also had concerns about erecting a parking structure in a historic area.
But the South Temple parcel was grandfathered in because the negotiations already had been completed when the ordinance passed, said Matthew Rojas, spokesman for Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
After several years of litigation involving adjacent landowners over rights to a nearby alleyway, the deal finally was executed in June. The parking garage should be completed by early 2018, said Alta Club President Mike Homer.
Getting the extra 'L' out •
Getting the extra ’L’ out
Salt Lake City is serious about enforcing its edicts regarding where and when fireworks can be set off during the July holidays. It just seems confused about who is making the rules.
For example, signs along South Temple at several streets leading up to the Avenues advise passers-by that there will be no fireworks north of South Temple — "BY ORDER OF SLC FIRE MARSHALL."
It should be "MARSHAL."
Out of the closet •
The word is out. Folks on the East Coast now know. Salt Lake City no longer can hide behind a pious, perhaps stodgy reputation.
It has been outed as a "super gay, super cool hipster haven."
A column in The Boston Globe by Christopher Muther spilled the beans.
"I was nursing a rum and Diet Coke at a gay bar in Salt Lake City when a thunderbolt of excitement hit the room," Muther wrote. "I was told that Michael Sanders, the reigning Mr. Leather Slut of Utah, had arrived."
It was one of several experiences in Utah's capital that convinced Muther. "It is slightly less gay that Boston," he wrote, citing a Gallup poll showing 4.7 percent of Salt Lake City residents identify as LGBT. "But gayer than Los Angeles."
The poll ranked Salt Lake City the seventh-gayest city in the country. And, Muther noted, the city made Advocate magazine's "Queerest Cities in America in 2016."
With that kind of publicity, it may be goodbye to the Outdoor Retailer shows and hello to a whole new slate of conventions.