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Murray Journal

What’s next for Murray’s downtown?

Jul 03, 2023 11:45AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The historic Townsend House will be relocated south on Poplar Street, preserving the old structure. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

From transforming a historic mansion into a museum to renovating an iconic theater, Murray City is embarking on an ambitious revitalization program. Despite facing funding setbacks, the city is committed to its downtown revival. With the dedication of Murray City Hall, residents will witness several other noteworthy projects completed or get underway.

Murray Museum to move to Murray Mansion

The Murray Museum is moving to a new home in the historic Murray Mansion. The mansion, built in 1903, is located at 4872 S. Poplar St. and has been vacant for several years. The city is renovating the mansion to make it suitable for use as a museum. The renovation is expected to be completed in May 2023.

The Murray Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Murray. The museum has a collection of artifacts documenting the city’s history from its founding in 1851 to the present day. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs for children and adults.

The new Murray Museum will have ample exhibit space, meeting spaces and offices for Murray’s Cultural Arts staff. 

“The most exciting thing about the new location is that it will be in a beautiful, rehabbed historic home. We will be able to tell the story of the Cahoon family and how they contributed to the Murray story. It will also be next door to the new City Hall and serve as a gathering place for our residents,” Murray City Cultural Arts Director Lori Edmunds told the Murray Journal in September 2021. 

The Murray Museum is funded by the city of Murray. The city is forecasting $1.5 million in renovation costs for the mansion. The museum is also seeking private donations to help pay for the overhaul.

Murray Theater Renovation Plans Back on Track After Funding Setbacks

Murray City’s efforts to renovate the 83-year-old Murray Theater into an indoor performing arts facility are gaining momentum again. The city’s ambitious project hit a snag in 2020 when funding from Tourism, Recreation, Culture & Convention (TRCC) sources dwindled due to the pandemic. However, TRCC funding has been revitalized, breathing new life into the Murray Theater support for 2022.

With an estimated cost of around $10 million, Murray City is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to raise funds. The city has enlisted the expertise of Pathway Associates, a firm known for successfully raising $38 million for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City. Pathway Associates will assist in fundraising, costing $5,000 monthly or 10% of the earnings.

The city plans to generate additional revenue by selling naming rights for various theater sections, including the lobby, auditorium, north lounge, ticket office and green room. A unique opportunity will also be available for individuals to have their names displayed on the back of theater seats. While changing the Murray Theater’s name is not currently being considered, it remains possible if a significant offer is made.

Murray City intends to approach the legislature to bridge the remaining funding gap for additional financial support. Notably, the focus will not be on parking facilities, as the city believes it is not a pressing concern. Murray City Hall’s current parking lot is deemed sufficient, and future tenants or builders of the vacated city hall may be required to provide parking for theater patrons.

“Parking is not an issue. If you’ve gone to other theaters in Salt Lake City or the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, you will park a lot farther away than this parking lot (Murray City Hall),” Murray City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Sorenson said in a January 2023 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Programming envisioned for the renovated Murray Theater includes hosting musicals, local school productions, arts education events, film screenings and collaborations with local film festivals. However, concert performances may require additional sound equipment, which could incur additional costs.

If all goes according to plan, construction is expected to wrap up in early 2024, setting the stage for the Murray Theater’s grand reopening. Murrayites can look forward to a revitalized cultural landmark that will bring the community together through the magic of the performing arts.

Townsend Home and Murray Chapel properties

The Murray City Council is considering a resolution authorizing a request for proposals (RFP) to select a firm to relocate the Townsend House, a historic building located at 4843 S. Poplar St. The Townsend House was built in 1903 by John Cahoon, a prominent businessman in Murray. The house is a two-story, Queen Anne-style home with 10 rooms. It has been vacant for several years and needs repairs.

Consequently, the Murray City Redevelopment Agency (RDA) owns the Townsend House and the property on which it sits. The RDA proposes to relocate the house to a new site on the property that it also holds at 4904 S. Poplar St. (an empty lot south of the Murray Chapel).

Murray City’s proposed relocation would allow the Townsend House to be preserved and reused. The RDA is considering using the house for various purposes, including a museum, a community center or a rental property.

Anny Sooksri, the owner of the Tea Rose Diner, addressed the March 21 RDA meeting. She said that she would like to move her restaurant to the chapel but cannot afford to move to it.

The Murray City Council is expected to vote on the resolution authorizing the RFP for relocating the Townsend House on July 5. If the resolution is approved, the RDA will begin selecting a firm to relocate the house. The chapel will be put up for sale.

Former City Hall (Arlington Elementary School)

At the March 21 RDA board meeting, Murray City’s real estate agent in charge of selling the former City Hall (5025 S. State St.), Orden Yost, announced the property is valued at $14,330,000.

Under the Murray City Center District zoning, the properties allow for diverse development options such as multi-family, medical and retail establishments. While the city cannot mandate that residential units must be owner-occupied, there is mounting pressure for higher-density housing in the core area, in line with bus rapid transit implementation plans.

Discussions about the property have focused on parking structure proposals and integrating a promenade for recreational purposes. The RDA will consider proposals as early as this summer from developers. 

Block One

Murray City’s Block One (4800 S. State St.) plans are more uncertain. The city commissioned Y2 Analytics to survey residents’ thoughts regarding downtown. In compiling the responses, residents were for more green spaces, local and boutique businesses, outdoor dining and entertainment and art venues.

Respondents also mentioned Holladay City Center as an attractive model for revitalizing downtown Murray. Murray City Council plans to pick up discussions for Block One this fall. λ