The LDS Church started major demolition Monday of the Inn at Temple Square.
With news reporters and construction crews looking on, an excavator's claws ripped off bricks from the 75-year-old Salt Lake City hotel and began scraping concrete.
By the end of the January, the once-seven-story building will be razed to the ground. By 2011, as part of the LDS Church's City Creek Center project, a 26-story residential tower with 122 units will stand in the inn's place at the corner of West Temple and South Temple.
City Creek Center is an estimated $1 billion redevelopment of the Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center malls into a mixed-use project with housing units, fashion retail and office space.
The inn will be the first structure to be leveled on the two blocks. Next up: the Crossroads Plaza parking garage, which will be bulldozed starting next month. There will be destruction and construction for the next five years as the church prepares for a mid-2011 opening.
On Monday, the inn's one-time courtyard was piled with construction rubble and became the platform for the excavator. About 80 percent of the wreckage, by weight, will be recycled, according to church officials.
The community carries strong memories of the inn. It was a honeymoon and anniversary hub, particularly for LDS couples, because it stands across the street from the Salt Lake Temple. Earlier this year, the church auctioned the hotel's furnishings. And, on Saturday, it will give away 1,000 bricks as mementos at the ZCMI Center at 9 a.m.
Mark Gibbons - president of the church's Property Reserve Inc., which is City Creek's developer - once stayed at the inn on a wedding anniversary. As he watched Monday's excavation from the top of the Crossroads parking garage, Gibbons would not say the moment was bittersweet. "It's a memory that will last even when the building is gone."
Instead, Gibbons was focused on the future, noting that new memories will be made at the new condo tower.
But small-business owners in the vicinity have to deal in the present. Utah Woolen Mills sits next door and will remain open during construction. While access to the store's valuable 10-stall private parking lot has been preserved, sales have slowed, said store president Bart Stringham. He blames two days last week when construction crews blocked the sidewalk in front of the store because of falling debris from the inn.
The clothing store sits inside an office building called Temple View Center - one of the few structures the church is retaining on the block. It's not because the tower is historically significant. The church had to honor the Mills' 60-or-so-year lease. Stringham said Deseret Book's headquarters will fill the office space.
"We are a 100-year-old family business," Stringham said. "The church always talks about family and preserve the family. They finally understand . . . keeping us in the middle of their project is added credibility."
To mark the construction, Stringham will hand out to customers black-faced stuffed animals - lambs, naturally - topped with construction hats.
"We have to keep looking at the light at the end of the tunnel," Stringham said. "To be in the middle of this [City Creek Center] is going to be exquisite."
Bricks make a suite memento
* The LDS Church will give away 1,000 bricks from the Inn at Temple Square.
* Distribution starts Saturday at 9 a.m. on the ground floor of the ZCMI Center's Center Court.
* Bricks will be distributed first come, first served, with one brick available per family.