Guest Post: One Billion on Renovating Downtown Salt Lake?

(Exponent Blog recently received an email from “One Old Lady From Santa Fe” who has some concerns about the vast amount of money the Church will be using to revitalizing downtown S.L.C. To read about these plans, go to The Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News. Here follows some of her frank and honest concerns about the proposed project.)

I read these articles and am embarrassed and angry that my church has now changed from the traditional Christian focus to spend 1 billion dollars to make the malls and buildings in downtown Salt Lake more appealing. There will be more trees and a recreated City Creek to add to the ambiance. The mayor and many merchants are excited that the church is paying for the major revitalization of the fading ZCMI mall. I am aghast that the church feels the need to make a more attractive building for Nordstrom’s and Macy’s. I have a very hard time thinking that my church should be a landlord, real estate broker and doing the popular political thing for the merchants of downtown Salt Lake. The elaborate plans include condos. I am positive they are not going to be for the homeless and poor, but wealthy Salt Lakers wanting to live downtown.

I have long believed that the Church planned on returning to Jackson County and Adam-Ondi-Ahman. Evidently not. I am having a very difficult time justifying my worldwide church spending this massive sum of money on worldly goods. Why am I not reading about building homes for those displaced by last year’s hurricanes and tsunami or a massive immunization for the children of a third world country?

I am very interested in how other Mormons view these articles and the way the Church is spending 1 billion dollars. Please share your feelings.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

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  1. Caroline says:

    One Old Lady,

    I also would far rather see the Church donate that 1 billion to humanitarian causes. Thinking of the Church spending that huge an amount of money on malls and apartments concerns me.

    I was talking about it to Mike last night, and he did mention a few things that made me feel slightly better about it, however. At least tithing money (as stated by Hinckley) won’t be used for this renovation. Thank goodness. I imagine they are using revenue from their companies, stocks, etc. And perhaps they are justifying this vast expense by thinking that this renovation will ultimately increase the appeal of downtown and make their holdings worth more…? So I guess it wouldn’t be 1 billion down the drain…?

    Perhaps those are a couple of things that make this decision more understandable, but ultimately, I’m very sympathetic to your concerns. This is a world wide church and there are a lot of members (and non-members) in dire need. I’d personally be more comfortable with the money going to them.

  2. JKS says:

    1. The church does give humanitarian aid to those in need.
    2. The church has assets so that they will never, ever need to be in debt if the economy (or other circumstances) puts great strain on its resources. I support the First Presidency in deciding to hold assets and have a net worth. They teach us to prepare for emergencies, and they probably feel that the church needs to be prepared.
    3. Real Estate is considered a good, safe investment. The church owns a lot of real estate.
    4. If the church owns the properties around the temple then they don’t have to worry about the blocks around the temple becoming like downtown areas of other cities. No strip clubs. No bars. No anti-Mormon headquarters. Who knows what city zoning and ordinances may change in the future. If the church owns the property, they can prevent certain business from being in that area. If government and people want businesses with signs that say “Girls! Girls! Girls!” like my husband sees in our local city, it hopefully not be right next to the temple.
    I fully support the First Presidency and their decisions with the church’s assets and member’s tithing money. I think that they are careful and wise with money. I think that their purposes are to build the kingdom of God now, and in the future.

  3. a random John says:

    I have long believed that the Church planned on returning to Jackson County and Adam-Ondi-Ahman. Evidently not.

    Actually, I believe that Shoal Creek Valley is property near Jackson County that was purchased by Zions Securities under the direction of President Kimball which has now been sold to a developer.

  4. Dave says:

    The poor ye shall always have with you. An appealing urban landscape, however, is a rare thing, and requires effort, vision and money to make it happen. A billion for humanitarian aid is like spitting at the ocean, but a billion to upgrade SLC will actually make a big difference.

  5. AmyB says:

    I really don’t know what to think about this issue. If tithing money isn’t being spent on the renovation, what money is it? Interest from tithing money? Returns on investments made with tithing money? Or have people actually given that much money to the church that is specifically nontithing money earmarked for rebuilding shopping malls? Something doesn’t feel right to me, but I admit to not having all the facts.

    Dave, your comment kind of blows me away. With good management, a billion dollars could make a huge difference in ways that are deeply meaningful, saving and/or improving many impoverished lives. I’m not seeing how making downtown SLC more aesthetically appealing is more meaningful or makes a “bigger difference” than that. Are you saying that because we can’t fix everything, we should fix nothing and content ourselves with shopping malls where we don’t have to look the poor in the face, and we can pretend there isn’t real suffering and pain all over the world? It just seems like such a self-centered pursuit.

  6. TrailerTrash says:

    The church makes investments like this so that it can afford to give more money to humanitarian causes, build up the kingdom, and finance the church operations in poorer countries. What is the difference between this investment and any other investments that church already has? If the church weren’t evidently also donating substantial amounts of money, or if it seemed like this was a poor investment, I would be concerned. But since neither of these are the case, I think it is a good idea.

  7. Dave says:

    AmyB, I’ll at least back you on the characterization of the money. Saying “it’s not tithing money” is simply disingenuous. Interest or return on invested tithing money is as much tithing as any direct donation.

    The fact that Pres. Hinckley went out of his way to note that the money being invested isn’t tithing is mildly disturbing — not simply because it is inaccurate, but also because it suggests that LDS leaders view the downtown investment project as something that tithing funds should *not* be used for. If that’s really how they feel, then they probably should not be approving the investment, period. I would hope that the “it’s not tithing money” line is just PR fluff and that they actually view the downtown investment project as a good and defensible way to build up the center place of the LDS Church.

  8. Paula says:

    I’d feel more comfortable with this if the finances behind it were actually disclosed. Why do we have an extra billion lying around that’s not from tithing dollars? While I’m all for keeping SLC from deteriorating, it seems very Utah-centric to me, if we’re really a world-wide church. I’m thinking of chapels I’ve been in in other parts of the world which really needed work– cracked windows and boards over windows of one in England. Maybe all that’s been fixed now, but I kind of doubt it. And then there’re the issues of the living conditions of many members of the church. I wonder if we couldn’t do something to provide education, or clean water, or medical care, or even just adequate nutrition for members of the church in areas of need, for a lot less than a billion.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dave, you are taking Jesus’ words out of context and horrifically at that. He’s quoting Deut 15:11. NB what comes after the “therefore.”

    Julie M. Smith

  10. Dave says:

    Julie, in Matthew 26 the disciples complain about resources that were wasted (oil to anoint Jesus’ body, the temple of his spirit) when it could have been sold and the proceeds spent on or given to the poor. That seems perfectly applicable to a situation where modern disciples complain about resources wasted (funds spent to maintain the neighborhood immediately adjoining our flagship temple) when they could have been given to the poor.

    I think what LDS leaders have done with the Temple Square area over the last thirty years is marvelous.

  11. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    If the church owns the properties around the temple then they don’t have to worry about the blocks around the temple becoming like downtown areas of other cities. No strip clubs. No bars.

    I remember a debate at the law school when I was in my mid twenties. Profs who had done a lot of successful urban renewal work were debating whether or not down town Salt Lake could be saved.

    That was in the late 70s, early 80s, when they still had streetwalkers on Second South.

    The revitalization project worked for about twenty years.

    However, in looking at projects like this, it is important to seperate the net value of the deal from the actual cash investment.

    It is very possible to structure a deal that has a net value of a billion dollars so that the actual cost (i.e. sunk funds) are a great deal less.

    Obviously, the condos and such will return net revenue, probably a significant amount. Also, the general level of comment and complaint is the sort of thing that results in less disclosure.

    But I’d like to know the meaningful numbers. Right now we are hearing the numbers that are total value numbers, somewhat like talking about your monthly rental in terms of the cost to buy the apartment or the purchase price of a house in terms of money down the drain rather than housing costs that would be expended anyway and asset creation and preservation (in some housing markets).

    And yes, that was my brother-in-law who used to live next door to Salt Lake’s only whorehouse that advertised with four color process brochures. I was glad that it got closed and don’t feel that Salt Lake needs a district of replacements and urban decay.

  12. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:


    “Central to the City Creek Center will be six acres of open space: gardens and lawns clustered around water features following the historic south fork of City Creek, although the water won’t come from the actual underground creek.
    Running through the two blocks that currently house Crossroads and ZCMI malls — from West Temple to State Street between South Temple and 100 South — will be extensions of Social Hall Avenue, Regent Street and Richards Street. But these roads won’t be for cars; they will be pedestrian walkways.”

    No one is putting 1.5 billion down the drain, though I am curious what the net revenue/investment impact will be. (the last project was expected to cost, and did cost, about a net of six million dollars, but made a massive difference in the blight).

  13. Caroline says:

    I don’t live in SLC, so I’m not as familiar with the area as no doubt many of you are. But I did visit a couple of years ago when I went to a Sunstone Conference in downtown, and I didn’t think it was that bad at all. I walked around by myself for 3 or 4 days as I went in and out of the conference and I felt quite safe. And I didn’t notice any horrifically downtrodden or “blighted” areas. It sounds, Stephen, like things were much worse a few decades ago.

    But I’m from L.A., so maybe my expectations are low.

  14. Starfoxy says:

    Hmm, I wrote a comment that disappeared. Oh well.

    I remember being very suprised that the church is actually a rather wealthy institution, completely apart from tithing funds, and that those tithing funds make up a much smaller portion of the church’s net worth than one would think. Of course, as a tax-exempt organization the church doesn’t have to report it’s numbers, so very few people know exactly what that net worth, or percentages are. As it stands it doesn’t suprise me one bit that we could afford to do this outright (no loans) without touching tithing funds.

    As far as if this is the best use for the money- whether we like it or not SLC is a billboard for the church. Members come to Salt Lake to see the church headquarters, the Temple, and to attend conference or other meetings. Non-members come to Salt Lake for business, pleasure, or whatever and regardless of what happens they end up associating their visit with ‘The Mormons.’ I think money that we spend on making SLC a nice place to be isn’t wasted because it reflects well on the church to non-members and makes visiting SLC so much more pleasant for the members who do come.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps it would be nice to spend some of the extra millions and/or billions on lowering tuition at church sponsored schools so that they are accessible to more than the rich among us, given the prophet’s comments about the importance of getting an education.

  16. Paula says:

    I was biting my tongue in my earlier comment about church schools. I would like to see tuition be more income-linked for all kids at church schools. I live in a wealthy area, and many people from my stake send their kids to BYU. I think that if someone can afford a 2-3 million dollar home, they should be paying the full rate at BYU, not the subsidized rate that the regular tuition represents. I realize that those people would say that they’ve paid a lot of tithing. But I don’t think that tithing should be a way to sort of recycle your tuition money so that it becomes tax deductible. If every kid in the church could attend a church school, it would be a bit different, but when only some get the break, it seems very unfair to me.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “I think money that we spend on making SLC a nice place to be isn’t wasted because it reflects well on the church to non-members…”

    let’s not forget the first church commandment: thou shalt commit public relations

  18. Mark Butler says:

    One thing to consider is that the Church had considerable property that it acquired at essentially zero cost when they first came to what is now Utah. It also has considerable assets that were left over from the United Order.

    The proceeds from those assets have long been used for more business oriented activities – so it is likely that neither tithing money nor the proceeds from tithing money is used to fund this reconstruction, but rather other the proceeds from other business related assets going back one hundred and sixty years or so. It is worth remembering that the United Order is an economic system.

  19. Matt Evans says:

    A billion dollars invested is not a billion dollars spent. The church will have more money *after* this project than it has now, because the value of the condos, shops, and real estate will grow.

    The church shows that it understands Christ’s parable of the talents.

    Dave, you’re considering all money donated to the church as tithing, but the tithing form itself makes clear, with the list of other categories, that the church doesn’t consider all donations to be tithing. So long as the church accounts for its money the way the tithing form makes it appear, we have no reason to assume the church is being disengenous when it says no tithing funds are being used.

  20. Starfoxy says:

    Anonymous- Somehow I get the feeling that if the church wasn’t ‘committing public relations’ you’d disapprove of that too.

    As a church that actively seeks converts it matters what the public at large thinks about us. Having a PR department that is honest and proportional is not a sin. The question here (if this really boils down to PR) is if this is proportional to other money the church spends on other projects, and I think it is.

  21. Caroline says:

    Paula, the Utah-centric quality that you mention also concerned me. I know downtown SLC is a cornerstone of tourism and probably important for public relations etc, but it still seems like an awful lot of money for something that really does not seem all that vital to a large number of members’ lives.

  22. annegb says:

    Two people I always pay attention to when I’m not sure what I think: JKS and Stephen.

    My first thought when hearing about this was “thank heaven somebody noticed it’s a ghetto in downtown SLC.”

    I think they’ll get the money back and you guys, I wouldn’t walk around downtown Salt Lake after dark.

  23. Ronan says:

    “The poor ye shall always have with you.”

    LOL, Dave! So, building malls, condos and high-rise offices are the latter-day equivalent of anointing the body of Christ? Only in Mammon, my good friend.

    Having said that, I 100% agree with those who say that such an investment in real estate is a smart move and is money gained over the long term. I also believe the centre place of the church should look nice.

    But I now expect similar sentiments to surround building-policy across the church. Every year my family holidays in a corner of Wales that has a tiny branch. They meet in a cold, damp, and filthy community centre. They have waited decades for a building of their own because they don’t have enough members.

    But now, if:

    a) real estate is a good investment, and,
    b) nice real estate = good PR,

    then, a nice, modest little chapel or renovated room would do a lot of good. After all, the people of this corner of Wales will form their opinion on the church not based on Salt Lake City but on the local Mormon community, whose present surroundings suggest poverty and irrelevance.

    I smiled at Bishop Burton’s comment that the plans will give SLC a “24/7 culture.” Now, I’m all for a 24/7 culture as I’m a shallow heathen, but it sounds funny coming from church leaders who otherwise decry excess commercialism, Sabbath-shopping, etc.

  24. Paula says:

    I missed the 24/7 comment. Particularly funny when they announced the stores won’t be open on Sunday. I was wondering why it’s ok to serve liquor, but not to be open on Sunday.

    Ronan’s small church in Wales is exactly what I’m thinking of when I mentioned churches in other countries.

  25. Anonymous says:


    I’m familiar with the passage, Dave. But, again, Jesus is quoting half of Deut 15:11 and, therefore, alluding to the other half. So what is he doing with that phrase is commanding the disciples to help the poor. Look it up.

    Julie M. Smith

  26. Anonymous says:

    I explained my thinking a little more here:

    Julie M. Smith

  27. Graham says:

    Our church was broken into and among other things, my sister had a cheap portable CD player stolen that she had brought in to use with the YW. When we were asked by church physical facilities people what was stolen, we told them everything, including my sister’s CD player. They replaced everything that belonged to the Church but wouldn’t replace the CD player because it “wasn’t within the guidelines”.
    I generally think that the changes in SLC will be fine, and I don’t mind them spending that sort of money, but there does seem to be inequity in where the money is spent (as already mentioned with regard to the branch in Wales). My sister can afford to replace a $30 CD player, but it’s hard to understand why a church that has $1 billion to spend on SLC can’t afford $30 for her…

  28. Melanie says:

    It’s not that the Church doesn’t have $30 for your sister; it’s the precedent involved. While your sister has $30 to spend on a CD player for the YW, lots of YW leaders don’t. The Church doesn’t want to put itself in the position of implying that it’s necessary for YW leaders (or anyone else) to spend their personal money in order to serve in a specific calling.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m with annegb (who’s with JKS and Stephen). On my first visit to SLC, many years ago, I was appropriately impressed. I visited earlier this year and was shocked. I knew things had changed, but wow! What a difference. What used to be a bustling area full of clean beauty and culture (albeit Mormon culture) is now barren and unsavory. As night drew near, I realized I didn’t want to be left with my children in such a not-very-nice area… And I was across the street from the temple!

    I am also from Los Angeles and while the temple there is lovely enough, the surrounding areas most certainly are not. I think it’s lovely and appropriate when a temple’s immediate surroundings reflect the beauty of the temple and have no qualms about the Church’s World Headquarters striving for that.

    Ronan, where in Wales are you? My family lives in Newport.

  30. queuno says:

    1. I don’t know if this is cited in the press, but my relatives in Utah have indicated that a large chunk of this is being funded by private investors close to the Church (Sorenson? Huntsman?).

    2. The problem with giving a billion dollars to any organization is the problem with “scaling up”. Go read Buffett’s comments as to why he gave his billions to the Gates Foundation instead of his (deceased) wife’s foundation — he said that an organization has to have a certain “size” in order to not waste the money.

    3. At any rate, the Church already gives billions of dollars in aid away — they were VERY instrumental after the tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, etc. They do a lot in Africa and North Korea.

    4. Downtown SLC — outside Temple Square — is a pit. The Church partnering with LDS investors to rebuild the downtown area is not going to cause someone to go hungry in Kenya.

  31. madhousewife says:

    There is a difference between tithing funds and other funds. Tithing is a commandment. Other donations are not. All the money that comes in the form of tithing is earmarked for tithing-appropriate purposes.

    I don’t care if the Church spends non-tithing money on this sort of investment. I don’t even think it’s Utah-centric in any objectionable way. The Church is headquartered in Utah. We should probably make peace with that. The Church is Utah-centric insofar as its leadership remains Utah-centric, not insofar as they spend money investing in the local real estate.

  32. Davis says:

    What most people here dont seem to know is that the Church already owns the land and buildings in the area of concern.

    Something has to be done with them. This isnt a “go out and buy it – then fix it” effort. It is a rehab effort on existing assets.

    If they dont fix it, they would have to sell it. If they sell it, downtown Salt Lake potentially gets even worse.

    The revenue over the last 20 years from these assets are enormous. No tithing money or proceeds from tithing is being used.

  33. Caroline says:

    So I’m willing to agree that spending money on renovating downtown SLC could turn out to be a smart thing financially in the long run. A very savvy move, perhaps.

    But what still makes me wonder is the extent and price of this renovation. Does 1 billion really need to be spent? Could not a renovation of a few hundred million achieve similar results? Obviously I’m not an insider as to how people came up with this plan and price tag, but something feels just a bit off to me still. Maybe it’s just some discomfort thinking that my church is run by such savvy business men, when I’d prefer to think of them more like I think of Jesus – ministers, pastors, and teachers.

  34. ola senor says:

    I think the $1 billion amount might be misleading. If the project at the end is to be worth $1 billion that makes sense. As anyone who has watched a homemakeover/flipping show realizes that old property plus small money equals big money. SO the out of pocket costs for the church would likely be much less, if any.

    A question about BYU tuition. Is it really so expensive? While I don’t expect that every parent could shell out the 3600 per year, isn’t that what student loans are for?

  35. Gary says:

    It is entirely possible that by investing this money now, the Church will earn significant returns which can then be used to further its mission in the future. I simply don’t have enough information to have an informed opinion on this issue one way or the other, and I doubt very many people do.

    However, I am very bothered by the statement that the Church is not using tithing funds to make this investment. Although I believe Pres. Hinckley, I believe this is irrelevant. Money is fungible. If the church has money available, whether from tithing or from another source, it can be used for anything. Non tithing funds could be used to build churches or to help the poor just as tithing funds can be used for those purposes. It is irrelevant that the money is not tithing money, and making that statement seems misleading. If this would be an inappropriate use of tithing funds, then it is an inappropriate use of ANY funds.

  36. Dave says:

    Amy B said (comment no. 5): “Are you saying that because we can’t fix everything, we should fix nothing and content ourselves with shopping malls where we don’t have to look the poor in the face, and we can pretend there isn’t real suffering and pain all over the world? It just seems like such a self-centered pursuit.”

    Dave responds: Of course not, I’m just saying it is wrong to use “What about the poor?” to criticize all other worthwhile uses of the Church’s money. And they are not really in pursuit of shopping malls, they’re just trying to keep the neighborhood friendly and welcoming for the thousands of LDS pilgrims from who visit there each month. They’re really not shopping people, these GAs.

    Let me just say how much I enjoy the Exponent II blog. The articles are invariably well written and interesting. I didn’t mean to stir things up with my earlier comments. Well, maybe just a little.

  37. Lucy says:

    I agree with Caroline–“maybe it’s just some discomfort thinking that my church is run by such savvy business men, when I’d prefer to think of them more like I think of Jesus – ministers, pastors, and teachers.”

    I also have to disagree with everyone who thinks dowtown Salt Lake is a slum. I live downtown, and feel very safe. I think the Church is trying to compete with the other venues outside of Temple Square and is trying to woo back tourists and shoppers to the Temple Square area. The Church’s plan sounds alot like what is already going on at the Gateway Center (ll blocks away).

  38. Caroline says:

    ola senor, I read “the Church’s 1 billion dollar project” as the price tag, but I suppose it’s possible that it could be the end result. Hope so.

    Gary, I agree that the tithing statement was a bit funny. Gives the impression that it wouldn’t have been a proper use of funds if it had come from tithing.

    Dave, I agree that the “what about the poor” argument can be used for anything. But for me, I guess this renovation project brings up concerns of excess. All things (particularly non-life saving things?) in moderation, etc. etc.

    Dave, thanks for your generous comment about the Expblog. I had the same sort of initial reaction as Amy to your comment, but I admit it was a thought provoking one. Feel free to stir things up any time 🙂

    Lucy, glad to know i’m not the only one who doesn’t think downtown is a horrific slum.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t see anyone call downtown SLC a “horrific slum.” But to visitors, outside of the church buildings, Temple Square is only a shadow of what it once was.

  40. el_godofredo says:

    I’m concerned with the idea that investments can’t/won’t help the poor. One of the best ways (in fact probably the only way) to help someone out of poverty is to get them a job, (a real job, not make-work). If you invest money in physical infrastructure, then you employ contractors, architects, truck drivers, lots of people. Many of those people just might be members who pay tithing. Many of the clerks in the new stores, just might pay tithing.

    Members in SLC are members just as much as those in Florida or Argentina. I am not from Utah, and I don’t see a problem to this at all. I think that the church is right to build a “hedge” around the temple. I haven’t been to SLC in a while, but if it is scary, then I would rather that church do something about it then let it go ghetto.

    BTW, BYU dollar for dollar is a STEAL compared to other institutions of higher learning.

  41. Diana says:

    There is no doubt that downtown SLC will be better off after the mall project is completed, that’s obviously not a question. And as someone who loves the Gateway, I’m looking forward to shopping at City Creek as well, now and then.

    But I don’t want to see the church in the business of operating malls. It feels wrong, it looks wrong, it seems wrong. (And yes, I know my opinion means nothing, but I can still have it.) There are other ways the church could be involved in revitalizing downtown. There are even ways the church could generate revenue through charitable endeavors.

    There is just something distasteful about the church being involved in building high end, luxury condos. I know that more people living downtown will aid greatly in revitalization, but it just has a really high ick factor.

    “And they are not really in pursuit of shopping malls, they’re just trying to keep the neighborhood friendly and welcoming for the thousands of LDS pilgrims from who visit there each month.”

    Let’s not be naive. They are definitely in the business of shopping malls. This is the investment they chose, the direction they chose, and they are 400% in. From the way they’ve handled the existing retailers at Crossroads to their decision to allow liquor sales, to the current sky bridge issue, they’ve shown that they plan to be realistic, aggressive, practical, and hard-hitting in all aspects.

    Good business sense? Absolutely. Good investment and protection of assets? Sure. But aggressive displays of cold hard business sense and practicality aren’t things that I associate with church. It’s all a little too moneychangers in the temple for me.

  42. Caroline says:

    Someone above mentioned the “billions” of dollars the church already gives in aid. Well, it’s not quite billions. According to, which is one of the Church’s official websites, they have given away over $830 million total in aid – over the last 20 years.


  43. Diana says:

    Caroline, if that is true, I’m flabbergasted.

    Strange, $1 billion couldn’t do a thing to help the poor, it’s just “spitting in the wind,” and yet the total of the money the church has spent on humanitarian efforts is even less than that? Something isn’t right here.

  44. Anonymous says:

    A couple of random thoughts…
    Seeing the Church at “Utah Centric” seems to miss the point that the Saints in Utah heavily subsidise the Church in most other lands, and that includes paying most of the cost of building chapels, even in Wales.
    The other thought prompted by Steven… Why must a architecture look bad after 20 years? The SL Temple still looks attractive after a century. Could it be that modernism in architectural design has a rather short aesthetic life span? Why is the waste, that is so consistantly apparent over time, of aesthetic trendiness so seldom addressed by the architectural profession?

  45. Anonymous says:

    A couple of random thoughts…
    Seeing the Church at “Utah Centric” seems to miss the point that Utah Mormons heavily subsidise the Church in most other lands, and that includes paying most of the cost of building chapels, even in Wales.
    The other thought prompted by Steven… Why must a architecture look bad after 20 years? The SL Temple still looks attractive after a century. Hotel Utah, the Beehive House, the Lion House, the Church Administration Building (the one with the superb Greek collumns) have all permanently added to the beauty of the area that surrounds Temple Square.

    Could it be that modernism in architectural design has a rather short aesthetic life span? Why is the waste, that is so consistantly apparent over time, of aesthetic trendiness so seldom addressed by the architectural profession? Why do schools of architecture seem to enforce historical amnesia in their design classes? Could this be why the architectural products don’t have a very long shelf life? Will the City Creek Center project in SLC have this same problem in 20 years?

    Many building projects look pretty good when they are new and shiny. The real test is after tweny years. Do they become “beloved” or just “dated?” Over the last half century or so, the architectural profession has had a very poor record of producing much that has become “beloved.” I hope that City Creek Center will be an exception to this all too frequent dismal record.

  46. Caroline says:

    diana, I loved your first comment. And I agree that the numbers for humanitarian aid are surprising. I think it’s probably only been since Hinckley’s been president that there’s been a major increase in humanitarian aid. I hope that other subsequent presidents not only follow his lead, but also expand upon his humanitarian efforts.

  47. Caroline says:

    anonymous, I too hope that this City Creek Center will be attractive and viable longer than 20 years. With a billion dollar price tag, it better.

  48. Paula says:

    el_godofredo said..”BYU tuition is a steal…. “

    I’m not sure if this was in reference to my comments or not. But that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t think that we should be subsidizing tuition this much for people who could very easily afford to pay for state schools or even private colleges. The average price of a home in my stake, here in California, is probably at least 800, 000. We have two wards where the average price is probably more like 2 million. A lot of kids from our stake go to BYU. Why does the church subsidize their tuition? There are a lot of other kids who can’t get into BYU, but their families also pay tithing. I think that use of church funds is not fair, or good. But that’s a threadjack, so I will stop now.

  49. Sara R says:

    For what it’s worth,

    A little over a mile away from Temple Square is Welfare Square. Next time you are in Salt Lake, take a tour. Great place. There are about 5 bishops assigned just to Welfare Square. Any needy person in the community, regardless of religion, can go there during the day. The bishop will assess their needs and what they are able to contribute, and they can be put to work in the bakery or DI or the warehouse and get food or clothes to fill their needs from the humanitarian center.

  50. ola senor says:

    as to why commercial projects have a shorter shelf life, the primary reason is that needs and the use of the building change over time. the Salt Lake temple has the same use as when it was first built. Even still there were some miracles in its building that allowed for continued use (ie elevator shaftes), and it, as well as most LDS temples, recieved some significant updating both exterior and interior.

    it is frequently more expensive to renovate than teardown and restart on a substantial project.

  51. Melinda says:

    Credibility claim: I worked for six years as a tax lawyer, and I did a ton of work for large tax-exempt organizations.

    The Church has two halves, and never the twain shall meet financially. There is the Church-y side, which receives tithing and does humanitarian aid, builds chapels, and funds the missionary program and so forth. The Church-y side is tax-exempt.

    Then there is the business side. This includes Deseret Book, Deseret News, and various corporations that own real property. The business side pays taxes just like any other business on the planet.

    It is the business side that owns the land downtown and that is going to develop this huge project.

    The Church-y side cannot give tithing money, or any other Church-y money to the business side. The business side can only give LIMITED amounts of money to the Church-y side. The IRS says so. If the business side of the Church tried to spend its money on humanitarian aid, the IRS would grab it by the throat and try to strangle it.

    The business side is pretty profitable. It can afford to spend $1 billion on renovating downtown Salt Lake. Because of the IRS, the business side of the Church does NOT have the option of using the $1 billion to fund humanitarian aid. Business profits have to be plowed back into the business. Limited amounts can be donated to charitable causes. Limited amounts can be distributed to shareholders. Once the business side hits those limits, excess funds have to be used for business purposes.

    The renovation of downtown Salt Lake is a business purpose. The money used for that project is NOT available for humanitarian or any religious projects. It just isn’t. If you hate that idea, take it up with the IRS. The Church has to obey tax laws in order to remain tax exempt.


  52. a random John says:

    Downtown SLC is not a slum. It is a ghost town though. Deedee purposely killed off all the little shops and such in order to more easily redevelop and then never followed through. What has resulted is a total shame. Downtown is as dead as can be. Ok, downtown South Bend, Indianna is worse, but not much.

  53. Caroline says:

    Melinda, interesting info.

    Seems odd to me that the business side of the church cannot give money to humanitarian causes. Is this true of all businesses? McDonalds or Microsoft can’t donate to humanitarian causes?

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