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The makeover continues for downtown Salt Lake City.

Ben Logue's dream of transforming dilapidated State Street hotels into stylish but affordable housing, shops and cafes surrounding a European-style plaza is about 18 months from reality.

Friday, Logue's development firm, The La Porte Group, broke ground at 237 S. State St., where the State Street Plaza project will save historic facades of the REX theater, as well as the Regis and Cambridge hotels as it constructs 180 housing units and street-level retail space.

The project should be complete by Thanksgiving 2013, according to the construction schedule.

The $34 million project, as planned, will be noted for its inner block plaza between storefronts on State and Edison streets, one-half block to the east.

"We're creating energy in the area," Logue said. "We're very excited. This is helping downtown Salt Lake City with its revival."

The British developer recently refurbished The Stratford Hotel on the corner of 200 East and 200 South. He is best known for his renovations in New York's SoHo and Upper East Side.

Logue spent the past two years assembling the financing for the State Street Plaza from a number of institutions that include federal, state, municipal and private sources.

Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, who also is chairman of the city's Redevelopment Agency, said the State Street Plaza project will create a synergy with the recently opened City Creek Center two blocks away.

"We're taking the light that has come back to Main Street and growing it to the rest of the city," he said.

The project is important because it adds significantly to downtown's housing stock, said Grant Whitaker, president of the Utah Housing Corp. More people will be living and shopping in the area as a result.

"This is really terrific for downtown," he said.

The plan calls for 44 housing units priced at market rates and 136 "affordable" units. They will range in size from studios to four-bedroom units.

It's in keeping with Salt Lake City's strategy to increase housing downtown, incorporating various strategies to make it a walkable community.

"We are bringing families back downtown," Logue said. "Harmon's [grocery store] is right there. And we're [within] walking distance from TRAX."

Major funding sources

• $19,055,000 — Freddie Mac/Citibank/Utah Housing Corp.

• $6,147,800 — Stratford Capital

• $4,500,000 — Utah Neighborhood Stabilization Program

• $2,500,000 — Key Bank/Redevelopment Agency

• $750,000 — Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund

• $750,000 — Salt Lake City Corp.

• $205,000 — Utah Housing Options for Persons with Aids Grant