Steeples are a common sight in most Utah neighborhoods, but Salt Lake City’s newest one comes with an uncommon pairing: a 25-story skyscraper.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled a new meetinghouse Friday at the base of downtown’s 95 State at City Creek office building.
Church leaders hope what they are calling the Social Hall Avenue Meetinghouse, located at State Street and 100 South, will attract those who are flocking to the booming downtown area.
“This will be a wonderful gathering place for them,” said general authority Seventy Kevin Pearson, Utah Area president.
The four-story, 39,000-square-foot gathering spot represents the first time the church has fused a commercial building and meetinghouse in the West.
The facility will house six wards, or congregations, including two for young single adults. It will also be home to the historic Salt Lake Stake, a regional group of Latter-day Saint congregations organized in 1847 and the oldest continuous stake in the global faith of 16.8 million members.
The previous stake center, 142 W. 200 North just northwest of the Conference Center, will become a campus for the private, faith-based American Heritage School.
On State Street, the office building will feature two chapels, including a ground-floor area that can hold up to 510 congregants. One floor above, a chapel big enough for 600 worshippers is outfitted with stained-glass panels made up of more than 100,000 individual pieces of glass.
Although the Social Hall Avenue Meetinghouse is the first of its kind in the West, it isn’t the church’s first endeavor at combining a commercial space with a place for worship. Such combinations exist in densely populated areas where land comes at a premium, including London and Brussels, Belgium.
Pearson said the church has always been interested in keeping Salt Lake City vibrant for residents and visitors, and is excited to be part of the transformation of downtown.
“With the changes that are happening along with that,” he said, “we see a great opportunity for the church to continue to grow here as well.”
The location of the new meetinghouse also carries historical significance for Latter-day Saints. It sits at the site of the pioneer-era Social Hall, where people gathered before the proliferation of meetinghouses across the Salt Lake Valley.
“We’re excited about that legacy,” Pearson said, “because it will continue to provide the same role that it did from the very beginning.”
Ashley Powell, president and CEO of Property Reserve Inc., a real estate investment arm of the church, said interest from commercial tenants was high before the pandemic but dropped off after the public health crisis swept the globe.
About a quarter of the building is already leased, he said, including the top two floors to a law firm. Another 50% of the building is in serious talks for being leased.
The 95 State at City Creek tower, Powell said, is home to law firms, financial services, staffing and human resources, and consulting companies.
In the church’s experience, Powell said, pairing a meetinghouse with a commercial building has not raised any challenges in attracting tenants.
In Alexandria, Va., where a chapel is connected to a 12-story apartment building, Powell said, the religious meetinghouse has drawn interest from people.
“It’s actually been quite positive,” he said.
The public can view the new downtown meetinghouse Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It will host its first stake conference — a regional gathering of congregations — this weekend and will be dedicated Sunday.
“Having the office tower provides a source of revenue to pay for the meetinghouse,” L. Todd Budge of the Presiding Bishopric, which oversees the faith’s real estate, financial and charitable operations, said in a news release. “... If [Latter-day Saint pioneer-prophet Brigham Young] were to come up that escalator now, I think he’d be quite surprised at what’s on this piece of land.”