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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan Cultural Arts Center construction delayed

Sep 21, 2018 04:48PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Ground was broken for a new Arts Center, but construction never began. This sign remained in place for many months. (courtesy/West Jordan)

By Erin Dixon | erin@mycityjournals.com 

Last November, ground was broken for a new Cultural Arts Center that would house the West Jordan Theater Arts, Symphony, Youth Theater, Mountain West Chorale and more. The building would have room for rehearsing, performances, 300 audience seats and concessions. The site was in a very visible and accessible location on 1955 West 7800 South in West Jordan City. 

Construction was to begin in March 2018 and completed in spring 2019. Seven months have passed since the projected start date and the site is still empty. 

In July, an official letter from West Jordan City Manager David Brickey states: “We have learned at that the site where the groundbreaking occurred for the proposed Cultural Arts Center [h]as a UDOT easement that conflicts with the site plans. Because of this, the site is not useable for a structure and the city is abandoning the site.” 

Councilmember Alan Anderson is the city liaison on the Arts Council. His thoughts do not reflect an official position of the city council. But he stated on Facebook on a page called “West Jordan Cultural Arts Center - Building a Strong Arts Foundation” that, “[D]uring the process of developing the fundraising plan, it was made known to the city about an easement on the property by UDOT. Not knowing about it before hand is on the city. I am sorry about that.” 

The money set aside originally for the project is still available, though $2 million that was previously granted by Salt Lake County is pending because of agreements that were not fully recognized at the time of the groundbreaking. 

The land on 7800 South was given to the city and came with conditions. Marketing Specialist Travis Green for Sugar Factory Playhouse wrote that, “The easement [or land] was a donation of land made to the city from UDOT about 15 years ago. One of the stipulations of the donation was that nothing could be built on the land because UDOT didn't want the city turning around and selling the land for profit.” 

“The city official [I spoke to] thinks we might be able to talk to UDOT and convince them to change the terms of the donation to allow the construction of a public building (the performing arts center),” Green said. 

As time goes on, it seems that not only is the placement changing, but city officials will need to reconsider the building plan as well. Because of the rising costs in the Salt Lake Valley for building materials and labor, the previously adopted building plan is increasingly more expensive than the initial estimation. (The original plan can be viewed here: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/399582_0788c9aa0b7548d3bb254ab1e80fbb10.pdf). 

There has been some discussion of simplifying this plan, but if some features are removed to cut costs then it may make the building less versatile. 

Anderson described some other indications that costs of construction in the valley are rising rapidly. 

“There are 1,800 contractors working on the new SLC International Airport,” Anderson said. “We have landscape companies driving by our parks employees offering $2/hour more than they are making. The city had a park bathroom bid come in at $250,000. This is just for bathrooms in a park.” 

Brickey also discussed this problem in the public statement.“...[T]he financial position has weakened,” Brickey said. “The building design has changed, and the current estimate is now $11.3 million versus an initial $8.1 million. [T]he county funding of $2 million has been returned because the grant had conditions that … negatively impact[ed] the Arts Council. The funds raised so far, which total about $6.5 million, continue to be set aside for an arts center.” 

Though the logistics are now in a jumble, the city council has remained faithful to the project and will continue to find a way to build something for the Arts Council to use. 

“The West Jordan City Council has not changed its position in support of the Arts in West Jordan,” Brickey said. “However, the city does not currently have the full resources to move forward with the project as designed.” 

Those alternative ideas include using West Jordan Middle School for performances or to purchase a pre-fabricated structure. 

For an alternate location, it has been suggested to use the land that held the sugar factory. The city already owns the land, but this location would have much less visibility to the public because of its location (8201 South. 2200 West). 

One of the organizations that would use the Arts Center regularly is the West Jordan Theater Arts Board (formerly the West Jordan Performing Arts Board). It had a turbulent history in finding a place to perform. In 1995, it performed in a picnic pavilion and did so for eight years. From 2004 to 2010, it performed in the old sugar factory until the building was condemned. Since 2010, performances have been at various schools and event arenas in the area. 

Other groups that would use the facility are the West Jordan Youth Theatre, West Jordan Symphony and the West Jordan City Band. 

Celeste Stone has been chair of the West Jordan Youth Theatre for the past six years. Performances are generally at Joel. P. Jensen Middle School, though sometimes it is difficult to coordinate schedules. 

“I feel like a lot of our needs as a youth theatre are not addressed. We have been promised for years and years they would get us a home…. It’s concerning how quickly things move for sports compounds and parks etc. but not for our arts.” 

“I feel at this point it’s never going to happen,” Stone said. “I think we all feel a little defeated and tend to not trust city council when they make promises. We should be able to come up with an amazing venue that fits all o[f] the arts needs, not a pop up theater”   

Progress is unsure, and there is no completion date until more details are solidified.