Facing stalking order, group sues Salt Lake City again over century-old theater


Casey McDonough, left, and Michael Valentine, proper, co-founders of the Mates of the Utah Pantages Theater, share public information they’ve collected concerning Utah Pantages Theater on Feb. 8. The group filed a lawsuit towards Salt Lake Metropolis over the way forward for the theater on Thursday. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Estimated learn time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Pantages Theater, in its heyday, introduced in such comedy legends as Will Rogers, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

However the theater’s potential closing act is popping into fairly a drama.

In one more flip within the authorized struggle over the way forward for the century-old downtown constructing, which is slated to be knocked down later this 12 months, leaders of a bunch preventing to protect the theater are suing Salt Lake Metropolis and its redevelopment company over its 2019 settlement to promote the constructing.

The lawsuit was filed simply weeks after the developer that now owns the constructing filed a stalking injunction towards one of many group’s founders, searching for to maintain him away from the constructing earlier than it is demolished later this 12 months.

Members of the group Mates of the Utah Pantages Theater filed the lawsuit in third District Courtroom on Thursday. The criticism facilities on town’s course of and resolution to switch the theater to the worldwide growth firm Hines for $0 in 2019. A spokesperson for Salt Lake Metropolis Mayor’s Workplace instructed KSL.com town is conscious of the lawsuit and metropolis attorneys are at present reviewing it.

The homeowners of two native companies, Twisted Roots and Beckett & Robb, additionally joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, stating the choice adversely affected them as a result of they had been compelled to shut and relocate their Foremost Road outlets after the switch of the constructing was finalized late final 12 months.

The plaintiffs are searching for a judgment that may void the 2019 settlement, citing violations of Utah code. For the reason that metropolis not has management of the constructing, they’re additionally searching for an injunction that may forestall town from issuing permits that may enable Hines to demolish the constructing.

The contractor employed by Hines to tear down the constructing filed a demolition allow request final month. Their request remains to be pending evaluate as of this week, in response to metropolis information.

A consultant for Hines filed a stalking injunction towards Michael Valentine — one of many founders of Mates of the Utah Pantages Theater — every week after the allow request was filed.

The paperwork filed in third District Courtroom reveals the corporate is searching for to maintain Valentine away from the theater due to what they name “excessive threatening conduct.”

Valentine additionally made a court docket look Thursday to plead his aspect within the injunction. He instructed KSL.com that he believes that it is all an try and maintain him away from the theater earlier than it is torn down.

“This can be a fairly baseless stalking injunction. … They’re attempting to maintain us away from this theater, away from this matter, away from the general public, and I feel (this) is only a continuation of that,” he mentioned every week after the injunction was filed.

He added later that he plans to file a counterclaim towards Hines over the ordeal.

How we acquired right here

Advocates for the century-old Utah Pantages Theater have squabbled with Salt Lake Metropolis over the destiny of the constructing for almost three years.

The Utah Pantages Theater opened in 1920 however it has been vacant for a while. Salt Lake Metropolis’s redevelopment company acquired the property for $5.5 million in 2010 and continued to publicly voice plans to protect the theater by means of at the least 2016; the data that the plaintiffs dug up in information requests reveals how the temper had modified by 2018.

Town’s RDA wrote on a web site that it estimates it could price between $40 million to $80 million to retrofit and restore the constructing, which is why it started to maneuver away from the concept of preserving it.

A part of the rivalry is the price. The estimates from comparable theaters refurbished over the previous decade point out it could possibly be finished for much less, Valentine says. A plan to revive the Pantages theater in Tacoma, Washington, launched in 2018, for instance, price rather less than $25 million, in response to the Information Tribune.

Homeowners of the constructing is also eligible for state and federal tax credit towards restoration initiatives if the constructing was listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations.

Then, in late 2019, town agreed to the cope with Hines for $0. The developer’s plans name for a 31-story, 368-foot high-rise on Foremost Road to interchange the theater.

The lawsuit filed Thursday is the third lawsuit within the matter. Valentine and Casey McDonough, one other founding father of Mates of the Utah Pantages Theater, first filed a lawsuit towards town over a failed poll measure. A decide sided with town however it has since been appealed to the Utah Supreme Courtroom.

The newest case

What the plaintiffs argue within the new lawsuit is that town violated Utah legal guidelines in its means of handing over the constructing for demolition.

Whereas it is not on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations, specialists from each Preservation Utah and the Utah State Preservation Workplace instructed metropolis officers that it both was or may have been eligible for that standing previous to the 2019 settlement, in response to paperwork.

One state statute says redevelopment companies should undergo a collection of processes earlier than shifting ahead with a plan as soon as a constructing is set to be historic. Valentine says these procedures weren’t adopted, thus he believes the deal is illegitimate.

“We’re saying the theater must be transferred again to town and these processes should be adopted in an open and clear manner,” he mentioned. “They by no means submitted the theater (for the historic report), they did not comply with this code. They deny the theater was eligible proper up by means of November 2021 after we completed our software and submitted the theater for the registry.”

Casey McDonough, left, and Michael Valentine, right, co-founders of the Friends of the Utah Pantages Theater, share contents from a binder of public records they've collected regarding Utah Pantages Theater. during an interview with KSL.com on Feb. 8. The group filed a lawsuit against Salt Lake City over the future of the Utah Pantages Theater on Thursday.
Casey McDonough, left, and Michael Valentine, proper, co-founders of the Mates of the Utah Pantages Theater, share contents from a binder of public information they’ve collected concerning Utah Pantages Theater. throughout an interview with KSL.com on Feb. 8. The group filed a lawsuit towards Salt Lake Metropolis over the way forward for the Utah Pantages Theater on Thursday. (Photograph: Carter Williams, KSL)

Town’s RDA web site acknowledges that Utah State Historic Preservation Workplace was trying into the matter final 12 months. In a single letter from the state preservation workplace dated Nov. 6, 2019, earlier than the $0 deal was introduced, a member from the preservation workplace wrote that there weren’t any ensures the theater would land on the register, however they wrote “it does have an opportunity and is actually price attempting.”

In keeping with the RDA web site, town contends the workplace did not take up the difficulty itself till March 2021. Emails and different paperwork submitted as proof within the lawsuit present town’s Historic Landmark Fee acknowledged on Nov. 4, 2021, that there could be a state assembly concerning the constructing on Nov. 18. Town nonetheless had possession of the constructing on the time because the settlement wasn’t finalized.

However a Hines lawyer despatched an e mail to the Utah State Preservation Workplace on Nov. 10, 2021 — the day the transaction was finalized — objecting to the nomination. Hines wrote that the constructing was “past restore and there may be not a financially viable use for restoration.”

And the matter apparently ended there.

Since metropolis officers say they’re nonetheless reviewing the lawsuit, they didn’t touch upon it. A spokesperson for Hines mentioned the corporate was unaware of the lawsuit.

Why care concerning the theater?

The brand new lawsuit can also be probably not the final authorized matter to be filed within the courts. The group can also be trying into different potential missteps uncovered in public information paperwork, in response to Valentine.

He and McDonough say they have been contained in the theater and seen its potential, which is why they’ve invested a lot time on the theater. Their final objective is to return it to its former glory. They view it as a novel constructing that they imagine generally is a public area residents would get pleasure from and a venue that brings individuals in for large occasions.


It has been form of a historic preservation second of speaking about these buildings in our metropolis. It has began a dialog, which is cool.

–Michael Valentine


On the identical time, they’re metropolis residents who proceed to query how the deal shook out. Valentine has an actual property background and says he is not sure how any constructing — even an getting old theater — misplaced worth from $5.5 million in 2010 to $4 million 9 years later when the remainder of the neighborhood property values skyrocketed. That is even earlier than the $4 million was waved off.

The lawsuits, they defined, emerged after they mentioned they had been rebuffed by metropolis officers each time they tried to deliver up questions and start dialogues over the plan for the theater.

“If it was a personal developer and a personal developer exchanging property, making a deal, then we would not have any argument,” McDonough mentioned. “However now we have an RDA utilizing our tax {dollars} with metropolis property making a cope with this billion-dollar developer.”

Valentine and McDonough say that it is also been well worth the struggle as a result of it is introduced preservation points to the forefront, which is why they do not foresee themselves giving up anytime quickly.

“It has been form of a historic preservation second of speaking about these buildings in our metropolis,” Valentine provides. “It has began a dialog, which is cool.”

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