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The southeast corner of 100 South and Main Street in Salt Lake City may soon feature a glassy, neck-craning office tower.

Plans for a 24-story office tower at 111 Main were unveiled Monday, giving Salt Lakers a first glimpse at a hulking Hamilton Partners development that would stand adjacent to a new $116M Utah Performing Arts Center and a stone's throw from City Creek Center.

"It's the single-best location in Salt Lake City, period," said Bruce Bingham, co-founder of Chicago-based Hamilton Partners, which also developed the 22-story office building at 222 Main. Currently owned by the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency after it was sold by Property Reserve Inc. (the real-estate arm of the LDS Church), the building popularly known as the Montgomery Ward Building sits unoccupied after its final tenant, Bennion Jewelers, moved to 15 W. South Temple on Monday. Hamilton Partners is negotiating to finalize the purchase of the site, Bingham said.

"In my, quote unquote, 'unbiased' judgment, I think it will be the most beautiful building in town," Bingham said. "222 has been appreciated for its elegance, and I think this will surpass that."

Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the international architecture firm behind 222 Main, had designed a state-of-the-art hat truss for 111 Main that will allow them to build 21,000-square-foot floors on a 17,000-square-foot footprint, using a cantilever system that will essentially support a third of the weight from the roof, Bingham said.

Cushman & Wakefield has begun pre-leasing for the building. In terms of square footage, its 440,000 rentable square feet would make it the second-largest building in Salt Lake City, after the Wells Fargo Center. Ground-floor retail space likely will go to a white-cloth eatery. There is no "magic number" for pre-leased occupancy, said leasing broker Chris Kirk, senior director of office & investments for Cushman & WakeField, but he feels confident that the industry standard commitment of 50 percent can be achieved soon and that they will break ground in 2014, with an eye toward opening in early 2016. Bingham says they have already had formal inquiries that would account for 40 percent of the building's space.

The office space is billed as highly customizable, boasting a raised-floor design that houses all the data wiring and heating, ventilation and air conditioning below ground. A news release also says "it is anticipated the building will be awarded a LEED Gold Certification" for its energy conservation.

Kirk thinks the timing is excellent. While 222 Main, which now features an occupancy rate of 85 percent, Kirk said, was built right during the depths of recession, today's growing market is encouraging businesses to consider expansion or a move from suburban locations to downtown.

"Salt Lake City is growing in the minds and hearts of people across the country," Kirk says, citing an eager young labor force, the cost of living and nearby recreational attractions. He says he understands the perception that there is a great deal of vacant space in downtown Salt Lake, but that Class A office space is actually in short supply. Numbers from a Downtown Alliance report seem to back that up, with 11.2 percent of Class A office space currently vacant, down from 18.2 percent in 2010 and dramatically lower than the 17 percent vacancy rate across all classes.

Bingham said developing 111 Main is a low-risk proposition, given not only the value of the property, but also the LDS Church's investment in the area.

"I think you have to look at City Creek as the engine that is driving the expansion of downtown," Bingham said. "There's a commitment I can count on. Because they will not let downtown fail, we have confidence in adding to what they've done."

Twitter: @matthew_piper

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