Union Pacific's Salt Lake City Depot
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This page was last updated on July 21, 2017.
Since December 1999, Union Pacific's former Salt Lake City depot has been owned by The Boyer Company, the owner of the adjacent outdoor retail mall and residential and office complex known as The Gateway. The depot serves as the major east-side entrance portal to the mall known as The Gateway. The main waiting room was restored to its previous glory, including the murals at each end, and the stained glass windows along the upper west wall were also repaired and cleaned. The public spaces, which includes the restrooms, were completely renovated and modernized. The north wing is now a night club, "The Depot", and the south wing was first used as a Virgin Megastore, but that closed this past July 15, 2007. It was replaced by Urban Outfitters in late November 2007.
The former passenger depot's main waiting room is today known as "The Grand Hall", and is available for use by receptions and banquets. Both the north wing and the south wing are reserved for retail stores or night clubs. The area west of the depot is the entrance to the Olympic Legacy Plaza, located on the lower level and accessed by a grand stairway. The plaza features an Olympic Wall of Honor and memorial paver stones, along with the "dancing waters" of the Olympic Snowflake Fountain and a surface-running portion of City Creek.
The Historical American Buildings Survey summarized the depot's architectural significance as follows:
The "Early French Renaissance" or Chateauesque structure was built on piles because the site is believed to have been an old riverbed. The structure is of reinforced concrete with a veneer of stone from Glencoe, Wyoming on the first story and the remaining wall surfaces are of Salt Lake City pressed brick. Numerous window bays of varying types allow light into the massive structure. Exterior decorative elements include the twin front towers with cornices of galvanized iron, carved stone gargoyles, faint quoins at the building's corners, classical fascia on the entry canopy, and stained glass windows.
The station's interior is typical of railroad-related rooms of the time, with waiting rooms, baggage rooms, ticket office and administrative offices. The most impressive room features a domed ceiling rising three stories above the central waiting room. This vast room is enriched with numerous decorative features. There are two oil-oncanvas paintings at the north and south ends of the room by San Francisco artist John McQuarrie. In the painting on the south wall, Brigham Young is depicted making his famous exclamation upon first sight of the Great Salt Lake Valley - "This is the Place". The "Driving of the Golden Spike" is depicted on the north wall commemorating the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and uniting the nation by rail. Beautiful stained glass windows on the west wall feature a series of various kinds of rail transportation. All of these magnificent artworks remain today.
OSL and SPLA&SL completed the new Union Depot at Salt Lake City. Construction was begun in November 1906, and the depot was partially occupied in 1908. (October 28, 1976 UP letter to Julian Cavalier; source cited is "Salt Lake City, Past and Present," published in 1908) Construction started on February 1908. (Historic American Building Survey, Utah State Division of History)
In 1917 Union Pacific constructed an improved freight depot at Salt Lake City, located directly west of the its passenger depot. This improvement included a 233-feet long concrete extension to the existing freight depot. In 1929 a 50-feet by 156-feet open platform was added. In 1933 improvements were added to aid the handling of fruits and other perishables. In 1947, the open platform was fully enclosed, and in 1951 a separate building was constructed to house damaged, refused and unclaimed freight. This later building was located directly across 100 South, south of the freight depot. (Union Pacific annual reports)
Union Pacific constructed umbrella sheds for the Salt Lake City passenger depot. (Union Pacific 1925 annual report)
Union Pacific installed Centralized Traffic Control between Salt Lake City and Caliente, Nevada. Included was a new building located north of the Salt Lake City passenger depot, to house the communications equipment, and personnel needed to operate the new control system and control the train movements. This building later became the South-Central District train dispatching center. (part from Union Pacific annual reports for 1947 and 1948)
Union Pacific constructed what it called the "Post Office Annex" for lease to U. S. government. (Union Pacific 1951 annual report)
November 16, 1951
The U.S. Post Office began using its new parcel post sorting facility, located in the Union Pacific-owned Postal Annex building, located just south of UP's Salt Lake City depot. Work began in January 1951 and was completed in time for the Christmas rush. The building measured 125 feet by 225 feet. It was built by Union Pacific and leased to United States Post Office Department upon completion. (Deseret News, January 27, 1951; November 13, 1951; December 12, 1951) The building was occupied by the Post Office Department from November 1951 to November 1975 when the Postal Service opened its new sorting facility on Redwood Road.
Union Pacific removed the umbrella-style train sheds located along the west side of the Salt Lake City depot. (Historic American Building Survey, Utah State Division of History)
Union Pacific moved its administrative offices into the newly renovated, former Post Office Annex building, south of the Salt Lake City depot. With this move, the railroad vacated leased office space at 10 South Main Street in downtown Salt Lake. (Union Pacific October 28, 1976 letter to Julian Caviler, letter furnished by UP public relations department in Omaha)
Previously, UP had located its offices in the "Union Pacific Building" situated at No. 10 South Main Street, at the corner of South Temple and Main Street. Formerly called the "Oregon Short Line Building", the building had been occupied by OSL since 1910. The original OSL offices in Salt Lake City had burned completely in September 1901, and the new OSL building replaced the destroyed structure. (interview with C. R. Rockwell, UP public relations representative, circa 1978)
Union Pacific replaced the original slate roofing with copper standing-seam roofing.
October 18, 1989
Union Pacific donated its Salt Lake City depot to the State of Utah, at a ceremony and dinner attended by Michael Walsh, Union Pacific president; Drew Lewis, Union Pacific chairman, and Utah governor, Norm H. Bangerter. (Deseret News, October 19, 1989)
Construction began on the new arena for the Utah Jazz professional basketball team, to be located directly across the street east and south of the Union Pacific depot. During mid May 1990, the site was a parking lot used by the Utah Arts Festival. The arena was to be completed by October 1991. (Deseret News, May 14, 1990)
September 15, 1995
The concept of a facility to make use of the former Union Pacific depot was the seed for the formation of a public-private partnership to be known as "The Gateway Center," as a collaboration of Hansen Planetarium, the Utah Arts Council and the Utah Science Center Authority. (Deseret News, September 15, 1995)
March 21, 1996
The Utah Science Authority Board was disbanded. The board was the agency fomed in 1993 with the task of making the depot work as the site for the science center, but because Union Pacific still owned the land under, and surrounding the depot, the board was unable to find a solution and make the idea work. (Deseret News, March 21, 1996)
Union Pacific offered for sale, its property surrounding the Salt Lake City depot, and the yard area west of the depot. Numerous companies expressed interest in purchasing the property, but only two companies (Boyer Company and Excel Realty) submitted serious offers. In December 1997, both companies made presentations to a joint audience of city and Union Pacific officials. The purchase was to include a 25,000-square-foot office building south of the Union Pacific Depot, in use as the central offices of UP's Salt Lake City Service Unit, being the former the Post Office Annex. The depot building itself was owned by the State of Utah. (Deseret Morning News, January 6, 1998, "a year ago")
The Union Pacific Depot was an integral part of Boyer's proposed Gateway Project, but Boyer did not control it. It was owned by the state. Boyer had been talking with state officials about renovating the depot, which needs seismic and other improvements, set to cost $15 million. (Deseret Morning News, May 8, 1998)
Salt Lake City, Union Pacific, and Utah Department of Transportation all signed an agreement to consolidate the railroad's tracks and shorten the viaducts along Salt Lake City's west side, from North Temple Street on the north, to 1000 South, and between 300 West and Interstate 15. The agreement called for UDOT to contribute $8 million of the projected $11.7 million cost, with Salt Lake City picking up the remaining $3.7 million. The money was to be used to purchase the land from the railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1999)
In 1998, the Gateway District was named by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency as a "Brownfields Showcase Community", for its integrated strategy in the mitigation of over 100 years of prior use by railroads and other industries. This Brownfields designation would allow federal money to be used in the removal industrial wastes and development of the entire district as a mixed-use center for low- and middle-income residents and retail and office use. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1999)
May 7, 1998
The Boyer Company unveiled its plans for the Gateway area west of the Union Pacific depot. The developer envisioned 600,000 square feet of entertainment and retail space, 300,000 square feet of cultural space, 750,000 square feet of office space, 350 residential units, and a 250-room hotel. (Deseret News, May 8, 1998)
September 30, 1998
Union Pacific received federal Surface Transportation Board approval to abandon 3 miles of rail line within Salt Lake City, including 1.25 miles of the mainline trackage along 400 West from South Temple, south to 600 South. This was the original Utah Southern line between Salt Lake City and Provo, completed in 1871. (STB Docket AB-33, Sub 116X; initially filed on June 12, 1998; decided September 28, 1998)
In an agreement between the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency and The Boyer Company, signed in late 1998, the Boyer company was set to receive up to $18.5 million in subsidies from the RDA for its 40-acre development in the Gateway District. The redevelopment board on November 19, 1998, approved Boyer's request for assistance in infrastructure such as sidewalk and road improvement as well as monies for parking space and the renovation of the old Union Pacific Depot at 400 West and South Temple, which was reported as being structurally unsound with a cost of millions to renovate. The depot was an integral part of Boyer's design for the mixed-use office, residential, and recreational complex just west of and including the historic depot building. Of the announced $18.5 million funding figure, $16.5 million was not to be in "up-front" monies. But rather in the form of tax credits over a period of 15 to 20 years to compensate the developer for its construction of city-owned streets, sewers, sidewalks and other improvements. (Deseret Morning News, November 20, 1998; Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1999; Deseret News, December 13, 1999)
By March 1999, Salt Lake City officials stated that federal funding from the EPA Brownfields status was coming in too slowly, showing that $2.15 million had been received, with another $2.8 million promised. Another $13 million was still needed. To overcome the slow arrival of federal funding, Salt Lake City approved a loan of $8.41 million from city's general fund. The loan would be used immediately to allow RDA to begin the removal of railroad tracks and to build the new (temporary) home for Amtrak. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1999)
April 26, 1999
UP's tracks along 400 West were officially removed from service when the turnout leading to the trackage was spiked shut at the north end, at Grant Tower. (interview with Rick Durrant, UP operating official)
The removal of UP's tracks along 400 West at 400 South, 500 South, and 600 South was begun by crews of Wasatch Constructors, the contractor for Utah Department of Transportation's rebuilding of I-15 and its approaches to Salt Lake City. The agreement between UDOT, Salt Lake City, and Union Pacific, for the removal of UP tracks, were completed in October 1997 "after many months of tough negotiations". The changes were to remove 66 grade crossings and a total of 4.3 miles of track. The removal of tracks along 500 West (the former D&RGW passenger line) was to begin in June. (Deseret News, May 3, 1999, "End of 400 West Tracks in sight")
Work began to demolish and remove the abandoned rail yards and structures surrounding the former Union Pacific depot. In addition to smaller out buildings, the major structures included the former UP dispatching center adjacent to 400 West and North Temple, and the former UP administrative offices for the railroad's Salt Lake City Service Unit, which were themselves located in the former Post Office Annex located at 400 West and 100 South.
August 11, 1999
Work had begun demolishing the annex building, removing part of the roof and walls, when on August 11, 1999, a very rare tornado swept through downtown Salt Lake City, causing many media reports that the tornado had "destroyed" the depot itself.
The Boyer Co. bought the Union Pacific Depot in December 1999 from the State of Utah in a deal facilitated by funds from Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency. There was an estimate of $14 million to renovate the structure. (Deseret Morning News, December 14, 1999; May 14, 2005)
The depot, while under state ownership as the home of the Utah Arts Council, had an annual maintenance bill of $200,000. In a three-way deal between Salt Lake City, the State of Utah, and The Boyer Company, ownership of the depot changed hands from the state to Boyer. No money changed hands, "just paper". In return, the Arts Council moved from the depot to a Boyer-owned home at 300 South and 500 West. Without the landmark public and private deal by the end of 1999, Boyer would have walked away from the entire Gateway Project, stating that without the depot building itself, there would have been no "Gateway" to develop. Ownership actually passed from the state's Division of Facilities Construction and Management to Salt Lake City, then to The Boyer Company. The deal included the following ground rules:
Boyer will have to maintain a public walkway through the depot. The Arts Council will be allowed to continue its regular exhibits in the depot waiting room. Salt Lake City's Historic Landmarks Commission will review all renovation and restoration plans for the building, which is listed on the city's historic register. And, to take advantage of federal tax credits, the developer will have to comply with the U.S. Department of the Interior's historic-preservation requirements. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 3, 1999)
The Boyer Co. saw the Gateway Project as primarily pedestrian oriented with the Union Pacific depot as the entry point through which people would pass into the open plaza. While $14 million was to be spent on the depot, much of that would go to meeting earthquake and other structural work. Boyer said it would otherwise look much like it before the sale, with the building's grand hall preserved for public access to Gateway and as a site for ceremonial events, art exhibits and other public gatherings. The wings on either side of the depot were to be used for restaurant and entertainment space. (Deseret Morning News, December 12, 1999)
December 13, 1999
A formal ground breaking ceremony was held for The Gateway development, although work had already begun. There had been sufficient demolition and clearing of the property west of the depot to allow improvements to begin. (U. S. Housing and Urban Development, "Utah Highlights", February 9, 2000)
Gateway Associates (The Boyer Company) paid for half the public improvements in some areas of the Gateway Project and three-fourths of the improvements to the Union Pacific depot. According to comments by staff members of the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, Salt Lake City allowed a tax increment reimbursement to defray some of that expense. (Salt Lake City council agenda for October 14, 2003)
The House of Blues, a nightclub and restaurant proposed for the north wing of the Union Pacific depot, was refused its design for signs above the club entrance. The club was to include 1000-seat concert hall, and was to be open just days before the start of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. (Deseret News, August 2, 2001)
November 1, 2001
The Gateway celebrated its grand opening on Thursday November 1, 2001, as hundreds of people gathered at the Union Pacific Depot. (Deseret Morning News, November 2, 2001)
Los Angeles-based Virgin Entertainment Group, North America, announced that the Virgin Megastore at The Gateway would open November 14, 2002. As a tenant inside the former Union Pacific depot's south wing, it was to be the 23rd Virgin Megastore in North America. The store would offer more than 75,000 music titles on CD; 15,000 movie and music titles on DVD and VHS; and more than 500 entertainment software titles. (Deseret Morning News, October 29, 2002)