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Murray Journal

What to do about downtown Murray?

Jul 18, 2019 03:40PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

A recent proposal shows all current buildings on State Street, between 4800 South and 5th Avenue being replaced with new development. (Graphic courtesy 5th Avenue Associates)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Can you preserve the past while moving into the future? Or is the only way to move forward is to tear down the past? Murray’s Redevelopment Agency is considering a proposal that would bring skyscrapers to State Street between 4800 South and 5th Avenue, while a nonprofit foundation is raising funds to buy and preserve the historic Murray First Ward building.

The Murray Journal reported in May that the City was considering razing the Murray State Bank on 4854 State St., built before 1903; the Grand Central Market, housing the Murray Arts Centre, built in 1938; and the building on the corner of State and 5th Avenue built in 1903 that housed Murray’s first movie theater. A recent proposal presented to the RDA shows a plan totally clearing the block (known as Block 1) for all new structures.

In the June 18 RDA meeting, developers from 5th Avenue Associates proposed a 15-story skyscraper, which is several floors less than the tallest tower at Intermountain Medical Center. The proposed development includes two residential towers with 345 units, townhomes, over 20,000 square feet of retail, a 14,000-square-foot grocery store and a hotel. The plan would also require the moving of the historic Townsend home by the Murray Mansion, and the demolition of the Tea Rose Diner, the historic Harker Building, built in 1922, at 4841 State St. and the Murray Mercantile, constructed in 1899 at 4836 State St.

Residents input to the RDA included concerns about the height of the structures and loss of historic buildings. The RDA of Murray City, which is made up of all members of the city council with the mayor as executive director, made no decision but committed to studying the proposal further. 

Around the corner on Vine Street, the Historic Murray First Foundation announced that it is launching its Phase 1 Public Contribution Campaign to raise $1.5 million to restore and bring into compliance the Historic Murray First Ward Chapel, which is also the former Mount Vernon Academy campus. The IRS recently recognized the Historic Murray First Foundation’s tax-exempt status. All donations will be used to further “the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of the Historic Murray First Ward Church on Vine Street.”

Efforts to sell the chapel, library, and Jones Court Duplexes have all fallen through as the cost of the building and renovations have stymied buyers. The Murray Journal reported in March that there was a buyer for the library, but the property still remains on the market. Murray City must approve all uses for the buildings. Owners are encouraged to consider adaptive reuse since demolition is not permitted at this time, and tax credits may be applicable based on the extent of the rehabilitation.

The chapel property is listed at $749,000, and the Carnegie Library building is listed for $800,000. A lawsuit against the City prevented a developer from tearing down the structures for a new assisted living center, as the court ruled that the City violated its code.

According to a written statement from the Historic Murray First Foundation, “Almost every town in England still has a historic church that is one of the main attractions of the City. Unfortunately, most communities in Salt Lake County have demolished their original churches. We are lucky in Murray to have two historic churches that are 111 years old and still standing.”  

The Historic Murray First Foundation was established in 2018 to raise money to provide for the long-term restoration of the historic Murray First Ward. Members of the foundation’s board include Kathleen Stanford, who filed the lawsuit to prevent their demolition.