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$23 million in earthquake repairs still needed for two Salt Lake City landmarks

Earthquake damage to historic buildings
Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 19:42:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City and County Building hasn’t been open for months. The pandemic is the primary reason, but three million dollars worth of earthquake repairs are also ongoing.

“The damage was limited to just superficial and non structural damage,” said Mark Stephens, the Deputy City Engineer for Salt Lake City.

READ: One year later, Magna sausage maker reflects on devastating earthquake

Cracks in walls and crumbling plaster can be seen in several places throughout the building, particularly on the third and fifth floors.

The damage would have been far worse, Stephens says, if not for the seismic isolators in the building’s basement which were added to the 1892 structure in the 1980’s.

“It allows the building to move in a way that does not damage the building,” Stephens said.

Another Salt Lake City landmark is in worse shape. The Rio Grande building is a former train station which houses the Utah State Historical Society.

It has had no significant seismic upgrades in its century-plus history, and has been closed to the public since a 5.7 magnitude quake shook Salt Lake City a year ago.

“We recorded what I would consider moderate damage to the facility,” said Jim Russell, Director of Facilities Construction and Management for the State of Utah.

READ: Microearthquake in Magna recorded on one-year anniversary of 2020 quake

Early estimates for repairs to the Rio Grande are “a little bit north of 20 million dollars,” Russell said.

Aside from repairs to plaster and paint, Russell says the roof needs reinforcement and the basement of the building, where many of the state’s historical items are stored, will need to be at least partially emptied while significant seismic upgrades are added.

Russell says FEMA funds and insurance funds will likely cover the costs.