High Concern: The current Public Safety Building, though built in 1957-58, it at risk due to relocation of its current tenant and promotion of its condition by the city and police units as irreparable. Citing the building's poor condition was a strategy used to promote a successful public bond to build a new public safety complex, but it's not an incentive to lure a new developer to come in and buy the building for a 'fair market' price from the city.
As many of us who have been around historic preservation know, issues regarding rehabilitation can, and have been, solved for historic buildings before. Even historic buildings from the mid-century modern period. However, as far as we know there have not been studies to further explore the condition of the building in preparation for rehabilitation, including the possibility of constructing a new building on the neighboring site. Thus far, the city has not taken an official position as to the building's status and its outlook for the future as far as surplus sale or demolition.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2011. Not only is the designation an honor for this building’s place in Utah’s architectural history and for Salt Lake City, but also for the modern movement in Utah.
This is one of the finest corporate International Style buildings in Utah; it is the sister structure to the historic First Security Bank building (now the Ken Garff Building) on 400 South and Main Street. As preservationists and as a city, this is where we can harness past success and what has been learned in preserving the First Security Bank building, translating it into a rehabilitation plan for the Public Safety Building. With other historic structures, there is also additional knowledge today about how to build more sustainable historic buildings with greater energy efficiency.
Utah Heritage Foundation believes that the Public Safety Building deserves recognition as a historic structure with listing in the National Register of Historic Places. We believe the building is eligible for listing as it exhibits excellent architectural integrity of the International Style and a direct historical connection with the local architect that worked on the First Security Bank building, Slack Winburn. This connection provides a unique example of an architect applying what was learned on one project to a later building. Importantly, the National Register could enable a future owner to access the federal and possibly state tax credits for rehabilitation in the adaptive use of the building for housing, office, or mixed uses.
With greater appreciation, designation, and rehabilitation the Public Safety Building has a gleaming future. The First Security Bank building provides the perfect model of success to follow. No matter who owns the building, Utah Heritage Foundation is ready to participate in the discussion as we believe preservation of this building is a critical piece to the success of Salt Lake City's east downtown.
The Public Safety Building was originally built as the Pacific Northwest Pipeline Company headquarters and it was expected to have 275 employees work in the building. Architects for the structure were the local father and son team Slack and David Winburn, with contractors Del Webb Construction Company of Phoenix, Arizona. The 95,000 square-foot building opened to great newspaper fanfare in May 1958 with Salt Lake Tribune headlines. The $2.5 million structure included an upper story that featured a penthouse conference room; heat resistant glass and aluminum louvers to shade windows on the south and west for energy efficiency; interior steel from the Geneva Steel Company in Lehi, Utah County; and an exterior of porcelainized steel, the same material pioneered on the First Security Bank building.
Other buildings constructed in the Salt Lake Valley at this time include the Executive Building on 400 South near 500 East, State Office Building (north of the Capitol), Skyline High School, and Surety Life Building (demolished 2005). Few buildings of this era in Utah attained the size, stature, architectural character, or longevity of the Public Safety Building.
Salt Lake City gained ownership of the building in 1979, and remodeled the interior that same year. The Public Safety Department immediately occupied the building and continues to occupy it today. It is expected that the SLC Public Safety Department will vacate the building in 2012 when their new building is completed at 500 South 300 East.
Read a short biography of architect Slack Winburn. (PDF 1.4 MB)
For the latest details on the project and proposals, visit the city's website.
See the UHF Position Statement on the Public Safety Building, September 1, 2009.