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No more downtown dreamin' for Salt Lake County's district attorney.
District Attorney Lohra Miller has reached a deal with Earl Holding's Sinclair Real Estate that will provide prosecutors a permanent home in Utah's capital city just south of the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse.
County officials announced this week that the new district attorney's building will rise on the southwest corner of 600 South and State Street a parcel now occupied by a businesses such as Emissions Xpress, Diamond Rental and Autograff Motor Works.
The price tag: $5.5 million for a 2.5-acre plot.
The location won't put prosecutors much closer to the courthouse the district attorney is leasing office space on Broadway, a block away from the courthouse in the other direction but it could save big bucks in lease payments.
Here's how: The county is expected to spend between $24.5 million and $29.5 million on a new building. In the time it takes to pay that off, the district attorney would have spent $31.3 million in lease payments, according to county estimates.
"Financially, it makes sense for us to build," Miller said. "Paying the mortgage is cheaper than paying the rent. And, at the end of the day, you get something out of it."
Sinclair officials did not return a call for comment.
The county also plans to buy 2.1 acres near the West Jordan Library for a south-valley complex for prosecutors. The county will pay $750,000 for that property.
While the district attorney may save money long term with new downtown digs, Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill, who is running against Miller, wonders whether now is the time to do it.
Gill favors buying the land, but is hesitant to build during a down economy.
It's not that the district attorney's headquarters will put an additional burden on taxpayers. It won't. The county plans to make the bond payments using money it would have spent on the Broadway lease.
It's that the county will have to make double payments to rent office space in one location while waiting for the new offices to be built. Maybe that money should be spent on more pressing priorities, Gill said, at a time when budgets are hurting.
"It's a good idea," he said, "bad timing."
County officials stand behind the project. With interest rates and constructions costs low, Chief Administrative Officer Doug Willmore said the county is in "a sweet spot" right now to build. Delaying the project could mean increases on both counts.
Echoed Chief Financial Officer Darrin Casper, "It is an absolute no-brainer."
Miller hopes construction will begin sometime next year.