New landscaping and a series of much-needed repairs will transform the popular Church Office Building plaza in downtown Salt Lake City as crews remove the familiar fountain and replace it with a circle of world flags.
The extensive overhaul, announced Monday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is part of an ongoing renovation and seismic upgrades to the landmark Salt Lake Temple and other structures and grounds on Temple Square that began in late December 2019.
Officials said the plaza work will replace a concrete deck and circulating water system that feed the fountain, which had leaked for several years and posed a hazard to a parking garage underneath. In addition to waterproofing, the plaza renovations will create new green spaces and gardens, improving access and visibility across the historic square, which draws millions of visitors every year.
Where the fountain is now, a news release noted, workers will also install a large circle of international flags, underscoring the global makeup of the Utah-based faith’s 16.5 million members in 196 countries and territories.
Reconstruction of the plaza — a favorite spot for wedding photos and which sits between the Church Office Building, the Church Administration Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Relief Society — is expected to take 18 months, the release added. Crews then will focus on work on the Main Street Plaza, which has its own reflecting pool.
The four-year Temple Square overhaul centers on fortifying foundations beneath the 128-year-old granite temple to protect it against a strong earthquake. March 18′s magnitude 5.7 temblor knocked the trumpet from the hand of the iconic Angel Moroni statue atop the temple, and, in May, crews lowered the golden figure to undergo repairs.
When the massive Temple Square project — which includes replacing several adjoining buildings and sprucing up the adjoining plaza and Temple Square — was announced spring 2019, church President Russell M. Nelson said it would “enhance, refresh and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds.”
Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the church, said the plaza revamp is designed to open up new views across the square of the temple and other landmarks “and make it more inviting for people to feel welcome here on the grounds.”
When finished, Kirby said in the release, “the landscaping around the temple, Main Street Plaza and the church headquarters block will all be very similar. We’re trying to make it like it’s the same landscape and it all relates to the temple.”