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Man offers to buy historic 'Utah Theater' from Salt Lake City

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Posted at 7:31 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 21:50:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — In a last-ditch effort, a Salt Lake City man offered to buy the dilapidated historic "Utah Theater" before it’s turned into a residential skyscraper.

However, the theater at 144 S. Main Street already has a buyer.

Michael Valentine isn’t ready to give up on the historic Utah Theater when it opened as the "Pantages Theater" 1918.

Despite needing extensive renovations, he offered to pay $500,000 for the structure, alongside an extensive proposal to the city.

“This building is so important, not only to Salt Lake and Utah but for the entire country. We can’t afford to really lose it at all,” said Valentine.

A filmmaker himself, Valentine created a company and nonprofit to bring cinema back to the theater.

A historic preservationist and a construction crew are lined up, including architect Casey O’Brian McDonough, who is starting a voter initiative to appeal to the city.

“We are going to take it to the voters to help the city realize we need to save the theater,” McDonough said.

360 REPORT: As Utah grows, how much history do we save?

But, there’s a snag. Salt Lake City already agreed to sell it to a firm called Hines and the LaSalle Group, who plan to demolish the theater to build a 31-story residential sky scraper.

Both companies did not respond to our request for comment on this story.

“They don’t think there is a way to save it, and we think there is,” said McDonough.

In 2010, the city bought the property for $5.1 million with the intent to renovate and reopen the theater until the price tag climbed up to $60 million.

In late 2019, the city’s redevelopment agency (RDA) approved to sell it to the developers for free in exchange for affordable housing and green space.

In response to FOX 13, city spokesperson Lindsey Nikola wrote: “The RDA is under contract with another entity for the purchase of the property and is conducting due diligence accordingly, thus we will not answer any questions about our current agreement or obligations.”

“The deal hasn’t closed yet — the contract is still pending it’s still being negotiated,” said Valentine.

Valentine believes he has a window and hopes his offer will sway the RDA’s decision to rethink the theater’s future.

The RDA, which is made up of city council members, is scheduled to talk about the sale Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a public meeting.