For years, members of the West Jordan arts community, from drama companies to musical groups, have shuffled from one venue to another without a true home. So when Salt Lake County recently deeded the old West Jordan Library to the city in a land exchange agreement, those artisans hoped that maybe they’d be able to use the property to practice, if not perform.
But a neighboring business approached city officials about purchasing the building for $1.25 million, and the council approved the purchase during its Jan. 7 meeting. There may yet be good news on the way for those artisans, however.
Community Treatment Alternatives, which is located next to the building, is still finalizing the timing on purchase of the library, which West Jordan City received from Salt Lake County last year.
The city gave the county property behind Fire Station 52, where the county plans to add a building as part of its health department. That left West Jordan officials wondering what to do with the old library—remodel it into a performance arts complex, or sell it? The vote to sell followed a rather lengthy public hearing, during which residents and members of the council debated the action.
“First of all, I don’t think this property qualifies as being surplus,” Councilmember Jeff Haaga said. “This building is not obsolete, and the city doesn’t need $1.25 million.”
Haaga stated that West Jordan City currently pays nearly $39,000 a year for venue storage. He said keeping the library building could help meet some of that need without renting other storage space.
Residents took to the podium to express their thoughts as well.
Rodney Kofoed, a member of the West Jordan City Band and the arts council, said the abandoned library “would make a viable place to practice. Over the last 18 years, we’ve been everywhere, from an attic to a bowery to the Sugar Factory. It would just be nice to have a place to call our own.”
Celeste Stone, chairperson of the West Jordan Youth Theatre, was hoping to use the building for auditions and possibly rehearsals and performances for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” She expressed frustration over the group continually having to find, and often pay for, places to both practice and perform.
“It’s such a challenge to find a place that will invite us,” she said. “The Viridian will only let us use their facility for five days in a row, and that’s not enough time to rehearse, install sets and, of course, to perform. The biggest part of this for me is that we should have a well-rounded community for our youth that provides opportunities for those with a variety of favored activities—from sports to drama to music. We need to find a home.”
But Councilmember Ben Southworth disagreed, saying “I see a difference between a want and a need.”
He joined with Councilmembers Justin Stoker and Chris McConnehey in advocating for sale of the property, rather than retrofitting the building for use by the arts community.
Mayor Kim Rolfe agreed with Haaga.
“I think it is wrong to surplus this building right now,” he said. “Let’s keep it until we can find the matching funds to build a new facility.”
However, the council approved the sale by a 5-2 vote.
But, during a two-day strategic planning meeting on Jan. 15-16, Stoker led a move to take the next step in getting a performance arts complex built. Council members have instructed city officials to find a designer and develop a plan to build a $3 million theatre/complex on a parcel of land that was part of the Sugar Factory complex.
“The council is sensitive to this issue, and I believe they fully intend to get this project underway,” said Interim City Manager Bryce Haderlie. “There are still a number of approvals that will need to be voted on, but once the sale of the library building is complete, that money will be earmarked for this project, and we’ll seek after other funding.”
The proceeds from the library sale could be put into a capital support fund and then eventually be used for the new arts complex.