New hotel conversion in Union Pacific building is on track for construction after crowdfunding, years of COVID-related delays

Developers still plan to add a hotel onto the backside of the historic Union Pacific building Downtown, although the Planning Commission gave them another year to figure out financing that has delayed the project on the north end of the Gateway mall.

While the Athens Group has begun crowd-funding its major redevelopment of the historic building into a 225-room luxury hotel, it says it is still on track to open the hotel in 2024.

The Planning Commission held no discussion when approving the second delay on Wednesday night, which the developers said was related to difficulty securing financing during the COVD-19 pandemic. Staff noted the builders have permits lined up and construction should begin next year. 

The delay is required for projects that receive Planning Commission approval but don’t pull building permits within a year of that approval.

“As you know the Covid-19 pandemic severely disrupted the hospitality market in 2020 and extending into the first half of 2021,” Shannon Heringer, the Athens Group director of development, told us. 

“Thankfully, market conditions and the capital markets for new hotel projects are improving,” Heringer said. “As a result we are moving forward with our construction documents with a goal of commencing construction during the first half of 2022 with anticipated completion and hotel opening in early 2024.”

Project Details 

  • Eight-story attached building overlooking the Gateway Legacy Plaza
  • 94 feet tall
  • Four unique, high-touch food and beverage outlets
  • 9,600 square feet of meeting space
  • 13 specialty suites located within the historic train station
The eight stories of the new Asher Adams hotel, operated by a luxury arm of Marriott, would overlook the Gateway. Rendering courtesy of Salt Lake City Planning documents, via HKS Architects.

Crowdfunding effort

In recent weeks, Salt Lakers have been targeted with paid ads on social media inviting them to invest in making the hotel conversion a reality. 

“Be an investor in the restoration of a historic 1908 train station into a luxury Marriott Autograph hotel in Salt Lake City,” the ad reads. “This opportunity zone, adaptive reuse project gives investors the chance to invest qualified capital gains & enjoy potentially significant tax benefits in return.”

The Athens Group didn’t respond to questions about the ads and what they meant for paying for the development.

The Crowdstreet investment page says Salt Lake City is an “underserved luxury market segment,” touts the tax-friendly status as an opportunity zone created by the 2017 federal tax law, and cites an “exceptional sponsorship with luxury hospitality track record.”

The hotel will be named Asher Adams, and may be operated by the Autograph Collection of Marriott International.

The name may be derived from the Asher & Adams map of the Utah Territory in 1873, one of the earliest obtainable maps of the territory. The developers obtained the trademark in early 2020.

The Asher Adams hotel would bring up to 225 hotel rooms to the Gateway area near 400 W. South Temple in Downtown Salt Lake City. Rendering courtesy of Salt Lake City Planning, via HKS Architects.

More about the project

Renderings show the historic building converted into hotel support, with a fitness room fronting 400 West, several meeting rooms, a grand hall and space for bar and restaurants.

The historic building and the new eight-story hotel would be connected by above-ground walkways and a ground-floor courtyard between the buildings.

The new building would be curved, which architects say would help match the layout of existing and surrounding buildings. At 94 feet, the new building would be slightly shorter than the tallest point of the 99-foot Union Pacific building, partially hiding it when viewed from the east on South Temple.

The north and south flanks of the building will be taller than the depot on the sides, however. And the entire west side of the building will be blocked except from those in the courtyard between the new and old buildings.

The building would continue ongoing revitalization efforts by the new owners of the Gateway, who have worked to add office space, new restaurants and bars.

It would be one of several major hotel developments to be built Downtown in coming and recent years. The Convention Center hotel is well underway at 200 S. West Temple.

RL Hotel, meanwhile, closed in 2019 and will be converted into small apartments starting next year. 

Construction Details

  • Owner: Vestar Gateway, LLC
  • Developer: Athens Hotel Development, LLC
  • Architect: HKS Architects, Inc
  • Civil Engineer: Great Basin Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: MGB+A The Grassli Group

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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.