Utah leaders sign off on ‘sweet deal,’ approve spending $56M to buy American Express buildings for state offices

(Dan Harrie | The Salt Lake Tribune) American Express property in Taylorsville, 4015 So. 2700 W. The state of Utah is buying the building to relocate hundreds of state employees. The purchase deal for $30 million is for two buildings on 31 acres. The state will spend another $26 million for renovations.

The wheels of government may move slowly — but not on Tuesday.

Utah legislative leaders voted after just a few minutes of discussion to spend $56 million to buy and renovate the American Express buildings and property at 4315 S. 2700 West for use as a new state office complex that will eventually house about 1,500 employees.

The Executive Appropriations Committee moved quickly to unanimously endorse the purchase after Jim Russell, director of the state’s Division of Facilities Construction and Management, told members that they had to act fast to meet a due diligence deadline Wednesday.

“This is one sweet deal,” gushed Sen. Karen Mayne, a West Valley City Democrat whose district encompasses the Taylorsville property.

“Wow, this is really a great deal for the state,” echoed Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton and Senate chairman of the committee.

The purchase price for two buildings with a total of 400,000 square feet on 31 acres is $30 million. Design and renovation costs will add another $26 million, Russell said.

The deal, he added, was “far and away the lowest cost option” for the state, which has been looking to buy or build new office space to relocate the Department of Agriculture and Food, now located at 350 N. Redwood Road, and the Department of Technology Services, in the old State Office Building on Capitol Hill. He said cost estimates for a new office space of the size needed were coming in at about $120 million.

The $56 million expenditure approved Tuesday comes out of $110 million set aside during the recent legislative session to rebuild the old State Office Building. That reconstruction is still planned, with a tentative completion date of 2023 that could be pushed back, depending on funding available and the economy at the time.

(Dan Harrie | The Salt Lake Tribune) The state of Utah is buying the American Express property in Taylorsville, 4015 So. 2700 W., to relocate hundreds of state employees. The purchase deal for $30 million — approved Tuesday, May, 14, 2019 — is for two buildings on 31 acres. The state will spend another $26 million for renovations.

Fortunate timing played into the purchase deal. American Express, which has been at its current location for more than 35 years, currently occupies only about a third of its leased office space and is planning to move to a smaller building in Sandy. The property owner, American Capital Healthcare Trust II, of Charlotte, N.C., already had sold its Taylorsville property but the sale fell through, Russell said. The state quickly submitted an offer, which was accepted and needed legislative signoff.

American Express will continue to lease space in the Taylorsville location through March at a cost of about $200,000 month.

State employees will start moving in within the next few months, with a goal of having about 400 now working on Capitol Hill relocated by the time the next legislative session begins in January to improve public access to parking.

Purchase of the Taylorsville property, located just north of the Calvin L. Rampton Complex, housing the Department of Public Safety and Department of Transportation, will allow the state to “start to create a government center,” Russell said. For one thing, the acquisition creates a state land bank because it doesn’t need a big swath of the 31 acres that are part of the deal.

The purchase was approved with almost no questions from the assembled lawmakers on the committee. Stevenson noted the lack of comments or queries, saying, “Everyone is still trying to figure out how this is too good to be true.”