Retailers rally for historic preservation in St. George

Posted at 6:48 PM, May 29, 2014

ST. GEORGE, Utah - A prominent downtown retailer is petitioning the city to tighten historic building preservation ordinances, and the move comes after preliminary plans to redevelop the area surfaced.

Urban Renewal owner Jenny Larsen said she was shocked to find out their landlords were even considering a project that would replace the 80-year-old storefront with a four story, commercial building and parking structure.

“We had a lot of concerns about it,” Larsen said. “Especially the concern about the historic nature of the building, and it being in the historic district.”

Larsen took her concerns to the city, and she said staff didn’t seem to share her concern. Now, they’re petitioning the mayor and city council to block any attempt to redevelop the old JC Penny on St. George Boulevard and Main Street. But city officials said, at this point, there’s nothing to block.

“All the city has seen is basically a conceptual rendering of what a building could look like,” said St. George assistant city manager Marc Mortensen. “Really that’s as far as the city has been involved.”

There are ordinances in place about developing in the downtown area, aimed specifically at keeping an historic feel. Any project would have to have the approval of the city council and go through several public comment periods.

Building owner Brooks Pace declined to comment on camera, but did say the concept was just an idea, and due to lease agreement is completely off the table at this point.

Larsen said they want to make sure those ordinances are strict enough to keep the historic quality of the downtown area in place.

“Most towns who have old towns or historic areas are very strict on what they can build,” Larsen said. “What we’ve found is there’s not that much that you can’t do.”

Larsen said they’ve already gathered close to 600 names on two petitions, one dealing specifically with the JC Penny building, the other dealing with historic district ordinances. They plan to present those to the city council in an upcoming city council meeting.