Developers demolish part of 114-year-old Fifth Ward Meetinghouse without a permit on Easter

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A wrecking crew tore into a historic meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Easter before the city caught wind of the illegal activity and shut it down on Sunday.

Bulldozers working on the site owned by Jordan Atkin were tearing into the facade of the brick building at 740 S. 300 W. in the Granary District when the city issued a stop order. The site is home to the Fifth Ward Meetinghouse, which was built in 1910 and is listed on the local and national historic registries.

The partial demolition of the entryway to the building was illegal, as there are no permits associated with the site on record with the city. 

“Two of the city planners stopped it,” said Nick Norris, the city’s chief planner in a post on X. “The people doing the demo tried to say they had a permit. They don’t. They took off. Police were called. This property owner knows the rules for demolishing a historic building.”

Jordan Atkin | TAG SLC

A skid steer was parked among trees and shrubs that were torn up this weekend. An excavator was mounted on top of a pile of bricks where the front of the assembly hall recently stood.

Documents filed with the county show a company called 300 West Holdings bought the property from Gunlock Capital in December. Atkin, owner of TAG SLC, which is an advertiser on Building Salt Lake, is listed as the only registered manager of 300 West Holdings.

Atkin said by email he didn’t know what happened, as a wrecking crew that tore through the building’s entryway and surrounding landscaping parked its equipment in place and left the site on Sunday.

“We are actively working to figure out how this happened,” Atkin said. “The property is owned by  300 W Holdings, LLC of which I am the registered manager but this property is not owned by TAG SLC, LLC or Jordan Atkin.” 

Atkin declined to comment on who is involved. The city’s stop work order is issued to him.

“I’m not going to drag my partners through the mud by bringing them into this,” he said. “It’s incredibly unfortunate.”

It would be highly unusual for a demolition crew to tear down a multi-million dollar property without permission from the ownership group or a permit from the city. The fact that it happened on a high holiday and a Sunday adds to the mystery.

Atkin, a prominent infill developer in Salt Lake City, posted on X in March about receiving a call from a neighbor who appeared to fear a building on one of his sites was going to be knocked down. The tongue-in-cheek post showed a street team apparently patching the street in front of one of his projects.

Two weeks later, the post has not aged well.

The building itself showed signs of neglect before Sunday’s illegal partial demolition. Recent images of the building show boarded up and broken windows. County records don’t show when the LDS Church gave up ownership of the property, though it appears it may have been in the 1970s.

The illegal partial demolition of the historic assembly hall is sure to rile up parts of a city already tense from years of rapid fire change. It came just over two years after a different investor illegally demolished a building in a historic district without a permit.

It also comes as the city works to preserve its historic fabric after a period of intense development, including in the Granary District. And images of pieces of the century-old structure laying strewn across the property were a particularly stark reminder of how quickly and crudely the city’s history can be erased.

The building was remodeled in 1937, according to a cornerstone that still sat torn from the building and laying on the property as of Sunday night. A sign marking the building as “Latter-day Saints Fifth Ward Assembly Hall” lay in the front yard after being torn from the front of the building, facing 300 West.

According to the blog Salt Lake Architecture, the building was an LDS chapel, a photo studio, music venue, office space, escort services, goth/industrial night clubs, Tibetan Buddhist temple and more.

Blake Thomas, director of Community and Neighborhoods at Salt Lake City, said the city issued a stop work order immediately.

“The City will continue to monitor the site to ensure that no further work is done without the appropriate permits and inspections,” Thomas said in a statement. “City staff will reach out to the owner to work on a remedy that complies with the City’s historic preservation regulations.“

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The images below were taken by Austin Taylor.

Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.