Who could have believed that seven years ago, new condos across from Temple Square would be listed for almost $2 million, and then sell out? This past week, Ashley Powell, president of City Creek Reserve (a real estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced that of the original 425 condos built at City Creek Mall, there were only 20 remaining.
To give you a bit of background, I was a volunteer planning and zoning commissioner for Salt Lake City for eight years and got to be intensely familiar with the project as we hammered out such earth-shattering decisions as to where the faux creek would be located and if the over-the-street bridge on Main Street would kill all street-level stores. We got hard-hat tours of the place and rolled our eyes at the proposed prices for "Temple View" units. Sorry to curse here boys and girls, but damn, you did it!
Powell said last week that the church would be getting out of the condo building business. "Not because it wasn't profitable, but because our direction now will be more office and apartment space," she said. They have turned the homeowner's associations over to the owners but will provide property management services.
The faithful here are lucky to have such wise and forethinking investors in their church leadership. Not only did they wait out the Great Recession, they sold units for the highest prices ever recorded in Salt Lake City for a condominium. In the year 2137, the lease of air space is up, and the church has the right to buy back all the 425 units at fair market value ... or renew the lease. Mind you, Utah is no different from other areas in the anomaly of church-held properties. Many nonprofit small and mega-churches around the country have vast real estate investments. In Seattle, you can live in the lovely high-rise Kline Galland Home Retirement Center if you're Jewish. In Missouri and Illinois, there are Lutheran Senior Services of Life Plan Communities. Not that the City Creek project was intended for seniors, or even Mormons for that matter.
I asked at the very beginning of planning and zoning meetings if the LDS church was intending to fill up all its condos with members of the faith. Mark Gibbons, the president of City Creek Reserve at the time told me that the demographic was not the faithful but businesspeople from around the world, and that it was not a project built for large families with pets. There are no kid-friendly amenities at City Creek condos and they still don't allow pets seven years later. Proof is in the pudding—the ownership at Richards Court and 99 West is as a diverse population as you can find in all of Utah.