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South Salt Lake is on the cusp of announcing the development of a private-sector commercial center at the historic Granite High building.

The news, which is short on detail, comes on the heels of the Granite School District extending a lease-to-buy agreement with South Salt Lake for the campus. That deal allows the municipality to purchase the building and 27 acres at 3300 South and 500 East for $8.64 million.

South Salt Lake officials didn't divulge many details Thursday, but a commercial development would be a stark departure from an earlier proposal to renovate the 105-year-old old high school and its campus as a civic center.

In November, South Salt Lake voters, by a five-vote margin, rejected a $25 million bond designed to buy and rehab the building and its campus for that purpose.

After the bond's defeat, the city had to rethink its options, said Sharen Hauri, the city's urban design director. Officials didn't want to plow ahead with a civic center if the taxpayers weren't behind it.

But a commercial center would boost, not draw down, city coffers.

"We didn't anticipate that this is the way it would go," Hauri said Thursday. At this juncture, though, "it would be a best-case scenario."

South Salt Lake is in negotiations with a private-sector partner for what would be a city redevelopment project, she said. That track was only possible after the Utah Legislature last session made surplus school property eligible for city redevelopment ventures.

Hauri said an official announcement, which would identify the developer and specific plans for the commercial center, could come in September. For instance, how much of the main building's historic character would be retained has not been disclosed.

In April 2011, South Salt Lake entered into a lease-to-buy agreement with Granite School District.

If the municipality were to back out, it would lose the $28,000 per month it has paid — a sum that soon will total half a million dollars. City Councilman Casey Fitts hopes financial and design details with the private developer can be worked out in the near future.

"We're confident that we will have a solution that will make Granite High a great asset to the community," he said. "It could happen in the next few weeks."

A commercial center that brings property taxes to South Salt Lake is crucial, Hauri said. The city has long been burdened as the site of jails, bus barns, light rail garages and sewage treatment plants that don't pay property taxes.

"This is a very attractive parcel for a large installation," Hauri said of the Granite High property. "It was important that we got a private partner."

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