Pantages / Utah Theater Statement

Preservation Utah's Statement

On the Pantages / Utah Theater

 

If and when the Pantages / Utah Theater is demolished in the coming weeks or months, the loss of this grand building will highlight the destruction of Salt Lake's historic theater district which once encompassed much of the City. Of the more than 20 historic theaters that, at one time or another, stood in or near downtown Salt Lake City, only the Capitol Theater on 2nd South will remain to represent a unique and irretrievable chapter of local history and culture. 

This Wednesday, July 14th at 5:30, the people of Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake City Planning Commission will meet online to discuss the skyscraper proposed to replace the Pantages / Utah Theater (note that currently the proposed skyscraper is the last item on the planning commission's agenda). Most public comments offered during this meeting will likely focus on saving the theater, while the Planning Commission's conversation will likely center around the proposed skyscraper's height and design elements.New Pantages Utah Theater 148 South Main Street

At this late date, there is a very slim chance of saving the Pantages / Utah Theater. There still remains, however, a great opportunity to learn from this experience and demand better moving forward.

For nearly two decades, Preservation Utah has worked with multiple City administrations in an attempt to rehabilitate the Utah Theater. When Preservation Utah began its most recent campaign to save the Utah Theater in 2018, we were informed by then Mayor Jackie Biscupski that Salt Lake residents don't care enough about historic preservation to make the Pantages / Utah Theater's "save" or the preservation of other endangered landmarks a matter of real concern. Mayor Biscupski repeatedly told Preservation Utah's staff that "preservation never made it into the double digits as a funding priority" in polls she took of City residents. 

When Mayor Biscupski told Preservation Utah that historic preservation was not a funding priority for Salt Lake residents, she did so as an elected representative who conveyed to us this message on the public's behalf. All current politicians who have voiced their opinion about the Pantages / Utah Theater or about preservation in general have likewise done so on your behalf as your elected representatives. 

What started as an effort to save the Pantages / Utah Theater should now transform into a political effort. If preservation is a priority for you and you would like to support preservation via public funding or other means, please make your elected officials aware of your views. Please express your support for preservation in tomorrow's Salt Lake Planning Commission meeting and in other public meetings moving forward where preservation rises as an issue. Get to know your elected representatives and engage in the civic process as frequently as you can. Work to make preservation a core election issue; an issue that all political candidates must acknowledge and address in thoughtful, serious ways. 

Preservation Utah's team totals four, but only two of us focus on advocacy for the entire state. Each day, this team of two works to educate the public about relevant preservation issues throughout Utah. More often than not, our efforts play out behind the scenes and involve listening to the wonderful stories fellow Utahns recount as they work to save the places that are special to them and their communities. As much as we can, we lend our support and expertise. It is an honor to play this role, but ours is an outsized, large responsibility. We work to save Utah's historic landmarks but we are always limited by time, finances, and bureaucracy. 

Like many reading this message, we are frustrated as we contemplate how the Pantages / Utah Theater, a publicly-owned resource, was given to wealthy developers in exchange for public benefits that seem to continually diminish as plans become more established. We are angry as we consider that the proposed demolition of the Pantages / Utah Theater represents a permanent loss for Salt Lake City and Utah. Should the Pantages / Utah Theater be demolished, it will join many other historic buildings that have disappeared this year alone. All of these buildings now exist as rubble in landfills but formerly represented facets of our shared Utah heritage and identity. Quite simply, we are heartbroken.

Moving forward, we ask for your help. Let your elected representatives know how more than one politician in Salt Lake / Utah has misread the public's will to invest in and preserve our local historic buildings that help to define and make our communities unique.