Provo council approves funds to preserve historic buildings


The Provo Municipal Council has approved $150,000 to be given to a fund for the Historical Rehabilitation and Preservation Grant program.

Joshua Yost, historic preservation planner at Provo City, said there are some conditions buildings must meet before they can be accepted as historic building.

They must be “located within the official boundaries of Provo City,” Yost said.  Each building must be “at least 50 years old and retains its historic integrity, in that there are no major alterations or additions that have obscured or destroyed the significant historic features.”

The old Provo Fourth Ward chapel has recently been bought and is in preparation to become an apartment complex. Photo by Sarah Hill

The building also has to be registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are many positives to restoring a building.

There is “special consideration in the granting of zoning variances or conditional use permits, eligibility for financial assistance from the city, special considerations and waiving of certain building code requirements for property rehabilitation, assistance for National Register nomination and subsequent eligibility for state and federal tax credits and other grants,” Yost said.

Greg Soter, a real estate agent, has had success ever since he designed and constructed Parkside Apartments 15 years ago. Last year he wanted to branch out, and when he saw an old LDS chapel for sale he jumped at the chance to purchase it.

“When I saw that the old Provo Fourth Ward chapel was for sale, the idea quickly clicked in my mind that someone needed to make certain that the exterior of that beautiful, stately old building was preserved and that it could be a very attractive place in which to create some very unusual, even more upscale, apartments that would be very appealing to the upper portion of the target audience we already serve at Parkside,” Soter said.

The chapel, located at 400 N. 100 West is to become “15 single-bedroom apartments,” Soter said, and although he won’t live there he is “figuring out how to design some really ‘killer’ interior space while most efficiently (using) the existing layout of the building.”

After purchasing the chapel, Soter was met with huge necessary fees in the preservation of the chapel’s historic structure totaling $71,000. These fees can now be covered because of the recent resolution passed by the council.

“The Provo Municipal Council recently made it more feasible to restore historic buildings by providing some financial assistance for the payment of city impact fees, which were hindering my ability to move forward with our planned renovation.” Soter said.

Richard Gregory, managing partner at Provo Town Square LLC, also said these new funds will have a positive impact on the city. “The city restructured the grant program to allow for a smaller up-front match from owners and allowed for the matching funds to be spent on the interior of the buildings,” Gregory said. “That was a game-changer for us at Provo Town Square. It allowed us to spend money on the interior to attract tenants and better income, while still improving the facades for the betterment of the entire downtown.

“Old buildings are like old people; they should be valued and cherished. They have wisdom and experience. Buildings record the passage of time, and they provide a physical link to our cultural history. As such, I love to see historic buildings restored and used productively. But old buildings should be a major priority in the redevelopment of this downtown community and a major consideration in future planning.”

Some may not see older buildings as significant, but Gregory said they are beneficial edifices in need of acknowledgment.

“We all benefit from their history and their beauty,” Gregory said. “We greatly appreciate the help and support from the city, the federal government and, most of all, from the community.”

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