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Driving along the shaded roadway that is 6200 South, Holladay City Councilman Jim Palmer saw that a "For Sale" sign had been set up only recently in front of the Cotton Bottom Inn, a Holladay institution.
"I was surprised," Palmer said. "I knew we ought to get it under contract."
Holladay did. The city moved quickly and has entered into a contract to buy the Cotton Bottom, where beer and garlic burgers have been mainstays since 1966, and two adjacent parcels for $875,000.
Before the sale is finalized, the City Council will hold a hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday to gauge reaction to the proposed purchase of the 0.84-acre parcel at the intersection of 6200 South and Holladay Boulevard.
Once that is done, the council is scheduled to sign off formally April 24 and to complete the sale May 1.
"That's a critical corner for us, a gateway entrance into Holladay," said Palmer, adding that the Cotton Bottom property also flanks the entry lane into an 8.3-acre park the city plans to develop when funding becomes available.
Adding almost another acre at the front with the tavern's purchase would enhance the park's prominence at that high-profile intersection, he said. It also would give the city enough land to build a fire station there, too.
Holladay needs a station in that corner of the city. A one-acre lot a few blocks to the northeast in Millrock Technology Park was set aside for that purpose, but the business park's rapid growth made that area too busy for firetrucks to maneuver, Palmer said.
Incorporating a fire station into the park would have the extra safety benefit of putting trailheads and restrooms adjacent to a facility operated 24 hours daily, he added.
"This area has changed remarkably," Palmer said of the proposed Knudsen Park, which bears the name of a family that operated a general store at the site of the Cotton Bottom. The intersection has been known for decades as Knudsen Corner (or sometimes Knudsen's Corner).
"We've started cleaning it up, installed watering and planted wildflowers," he added, noting that its trail system ultimately will hook into the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to the east and Jordan River Parkway trail to the west.
Acquiring the Cotton Bottom parcels also secures a valuable trail section along the east bank of Big Cottonwood Creek, Palmer said.
The purchase doesn't necessarily mean the Cotton Bottom bar will go out of business right away. The city has reserved the right to lease the business back to the current owner heirs of the late founder, Helen Chlepas or to a different operator until it is ready to develop the land.
And if the business climate changes and the city is better served selling the parcels to a private developer, that option also is allowed. The property is zoned R-M, which permits numerous uses.
A spokeswoman for the Chlepas family declined to comment Friday.
P A public hearing on Holladay City's proposal to buy the Cotton Bottom Inn and two adjacent parcels for $875,000 will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 4580 S. 2300 East.