This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The LDS Church, as an institution, towers over everything else in Utah. But, contrary to popular myth, it doesn't insist that its tallest building do the same.
Sure, it owns the state's tallest skyscraper, the 435-foot-tall Church Office Building (COB). And no builder has reached loftier heights (though a famed architect aims to try). After all, it would be sacrilegious - and against city code - to aspire higher.
Or so goes the urban legend.
Thing is, it's a myth, one church officials debunked during the 2002 Winter Olympics and one Salt Lake City planner Doug Dansie frequently encounters.
"There's no maximum height" downtown, he said.
City regulations do dictate buildings on corners be no taller than 375 feet, but they also offer developers ways to get around the rule.
If someone wants to build a 50-story sky-rise, Dansie said, "there's nothing legally preventing him from doing that. There's a process to go through."
So if architect Frank Gehry wanted to erect the 450-foot-high hotel he has planned for Lehi in Salt Lake City instead, he could do so.
But why hasn't someone already tried to top the COB? Dansie offers a guess: humility.
"If you look at other cities, part of the marketing of a building is for corporate bragging rights. It's a great corporate tool to have the Sears building [in Chicago] be the world's tallest, for a while. Salt Lake's not a big corporate-headquarters town. There's no ego driving it."
And if the biggest corporations deserve the biggest buildings, preserving the 28-story COB's status makes sense. "One could argue the LDS Church is the biggest corporate headquarters that we have," Dansie said.
The church - which stated Thursday it takes "no position" on city building heights - won't be eclipsing itself when it puts up new towers downtown as part of City Creek Center. The tallest on the drawing board, a condo high-rise on 100 South between West Temple and Main, scrapes the sky at 415 feet.
Jake Boyer, president of The Boyer Co., has heard the folklore. But that wasn't what stunted his 24-story One Utah Center on the corner of 200 South and Main.
"I don't think that's the height that it is necessarily because of the Church Office Building," Boyer said. "It's based on market conditions and the size the market would permit. If we had a tenant that wanted to take 40 stories, I don't think we'd really hesitate."
John Dahlstrom, executive vice president of Wasatch Property Management, pays the myth no mind. His company is headquartered at the Wells Fargo Building, the city's second-tallest at 440 feet, but only because of a 37-foot radio tower, according to company figures.
His company has tentative plans for a building that could surpass the COB. Preliminary drawings call for a 33-story tower on the corner of 400 South and State.
"People have said the church doesn't want anything built higher than the Church Office Building," Dahlstrom said. "I always thought the zoning laws drive it more than what the church wants."
Even so, the COB may forever appear taller. It does, after all, boast an exalted place, about 95 feet higher than land on 400 South.
"The Church Office Building has an inherent advantage," Dansie said. "It's on higher ground."