Latest office-to-residential conversion to begin construction on South Temple

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The office to residential trend is gaining some momentum in Salt Lake City.

Several weeks ago we reported on the 14-floor HK Tower that will be part of a new 260-unit residential development at 100 South and 500 E.

Two blocks away, at 348 E. South Temple, another architecturally-significant office building is undergoing conversion.  Built for IBM in 1960, the structure’s outstanding feature, its three stories of repeating concrete arches, will front a new structure and offer 182 new units Downtown.

Those “luxury open-plan apartments” will be a part of project offering high-end amenities to tenants, including a bowling alley and a golf simulator.

Project details

According to the lead architect on the project, designs are permitted and construction is presently commencing.

Larry Curtis of locals FFKR told us that the development team has high hopes that “it’s seen as something unique. That when people see it they say, ‘we need to do more office conversions like that’.” Ogden-based Wadman construction is the lead contractor.

Images courtesy FFKR and Google.

The new structure, to cover nearly 2/3 of the 1.25 acre site, is described as a “minimalist structure that respects the proportions of the existing apartments with contemporary detail and a refined pallet of materials.”

The project did not have to undergo Planning review at the city. It sits on RO Residential Office zoning and is allowed 90′ of height. The project’s new structure is eight floors, including the “mostly below-grade” parking garage.

Construction technology is an “infinity structure,” i.e. pre-panelized, load-bearing metal stud walls and concrete slab flooring.

Parking will be one level down in the new structure, where 177 stalls will be just under a 1:1 ratio.

The ground floor street front of the IBM building will offer little to passers-by, where a fitness center and a lounge/café (not open to the public) are planned.

Other amenities in the project include a fitness center, game room, co-working lounges and spa, as well as the aforementioned bowling alley and golf simulator.

The IBM building

Built for the International Business Machines Corporation and opened in 1960, the notable structure at 362 E. South Temple has more recently provided office space for American Stores grocers and the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

It would sit inside the South Temple Local Historic District – which would likely prevent demolition – if it weren’t for a strange cut out that also includes the two parcels to the west.

“The owners could have demolished the building and started over,” Curtis noted. “It would have made them significantly more money. But they were really committed to saving it.”

Its concrete arches (“barrel vaults”) are poured concrete with rebar. Each is topped with a concrete slab. Curtis told us that in its 60-plus years of existence, the interior surfaces on the arches has been roughed up, and in some places have suffered a lot of abuse. “We’ve got a lot of repairs to do on the finish, but the building’s structure is completely sound.”

Other challenges of the office-to-residential adaptive reuse center on floor plate size and the increased number of penetrations through floors and ceilings needed for a residential unit.  

Since an apartment depth is usually limited to 30 feet, office building bay depth (the distance from the face of the building to the core), typically at 45-50 feet, presents problems.

“It’s difficult. I’m doing a bunch of attempts at office conversions now, and the big issue is always bay depth.”

In addition, an office needs only “maybe 2-3 penetrations. But for residential, each unit needs three waste lines, three plumbing vents, two water lines, plus gas and electric. And that’s not counting dryer vents.”

When those ceiling and floors are 60-year old concrete slabs, it gets to be a challenge.

Yet engineering drawings are ready for construction, which Curtis says “will hopefully be complete in less than 24 months.”

Email Luke Garrott

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.