In a matter of seconds, a downtown Salt Lake City skyscraper was reduced to rubble early Saturday morning, Aug. 18, to make room for something better.
The former Key Bank tower at 50 South Main was imploded to make way for the mixed-use City Creek Center project being developed by Property Reserve Inc. for the Church. (See related story: Ka-BOOM! Smooth implosion turns tower to rubble.) The 20-story building was the last one to be brought down on the block formerly occupied primarily by the Crossroads Mall. Demolition of several buildings on the ZCMI Center block has begun to free up the rest of the space for the two-block, 22-acre City Creek project that will include housing, retail outlets and business offices in a landscaped, walkable community.
Viewed from the upper-level balcony of another skyscraper only a block east and within the implosion's impact zone, the building's demise was an astounding sight. Just as described in a pre-implosion briefing by Doug Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc., there was a series of loud explosions, explained as igniting the initiation sequence. Then about three seconds later, there was another quick series of explosions blowing the support columns out from under the massive structure. That facilitated what Mr. Loizeaux called the true energy of the demolition gravity.
In the blink of an eye, the building dropped almost entirely inside its own footprint, becoming a 40-foot-high pile of steel, concrete and other construction material.
About the only variance from what was explained would happen was that it went off about five minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 6:45 a.m.
Perhaps as spectacular as the building's collapse was the resulting massive cloud of dust. It billowed up about 140 feet and gradually went outward. While the building dropped like a fighter struck by a knockout punch, the dust cloud seemed to grow in slow motion. At first, it was blindingly thick, roiling in place. Then it spread like a brown blob to the north and south.
The fine powder settled over streets and low buildings and over Temple Square.
It took about 30 minutes for the dust to settle enough to make it feasible to move around in the nine-block impact zone that had been closed off earlier in the morning. By then, a sizeable portion of the cloud could still be seen riding the wind several miles northwest over the marshes of the Great Salt Lake.
The dust covering a good chunk of downtown was a small price to pay to put the building down in seconds rather than months, well worth the cost of a clean-up crew of hundreds of people with street sweepers, blowers, brooms and hoses.
The Church had its own army of cleaners to rapidly put Temple Square and the Church Plaza back in order. With the Gateway West Tower standing between it and the imploded building, the Salt Lake Temple was only slightly dusted. But a window between the fallen building and the southwest portion of Temple Square left it frosted with a layer of grayish-white powder.
Despite that, Brent Roberts, director of Church headquarters facilities, said the event closely matched the best-case-scenario they anticipated during two and a half months of preparation. Even a brisk breeze helped thin out the dust and push it northwest.
The cleaning priority of the morning, according to Brother Roberts, was the area immediately around the temple so it would be photo-ready for a parade of wedding parties arriving for numerous temple marriages scheduled during the morning.
In fact, Temple Square was almost entirely cleaned up by the time the first brides and grooms emerged about 8:30 a.m. That was thanks to more than 100 Church maintenance workers and volunteers who grabbed brooms and blowers to push the dust from the edges more to the center of walkways where it could be removed by street sweepers. Finally, water hoses were used to spray the dust off plants and shrubs, sidewalks, fences, benches, edging and other surfaces.
Cheryl Anderson, a Church maintenance employee who was sweeping the Salt Lake Tabernacle's entryways, exclaimed, "It hardly ever gets this dirty." But realizing the reason for and importance of the work made it "kind of fun," she said.
Temple weddings were filled with a little more anxiety than usual as brides and grooms and their parents dealt with sharing their big day with the big blast a block south.
EvaDean McKee, who traveled with her family from Vanderhoof, British Columbia, for her daughter Stephanie's marriage to Bryant Field, said Stephanie told her about the implosion about two days before the wedding. The demolition date was determined after the wedding appointment was made. Sister McKee said she was glad she knew because she felt the shaking of the implosion while helping Stephanie prepare inside the temple. Nevertheless, she said everything went fine and there was little evidence left when it was time for outdoor photos.
Only after seeing an advance report on television two days before did Sister Susan W. Tanner learn about the extracurricular activity planned for her daughter's temple wedding day, which was scheduled in March, and the impact it would have. Though she was worried by the report, a phone call to the temple left the Young Women general president reassured. But it did necessitate other calls to those invited to the wedding informing them that the only access would be through the Main Street/North Temple entrance. Sister Tanner was told there would be plenty of parking in the Conference Center underground lot and other places north of Temple Square.
Though they arrived after the building dropped, Sister Tanner said they saw the dust cloud as they approached Temple Square for daughter MaryAnne's marriage to Brad Hunter.
Nevertheless, "everything's been great," she said as family photos were being taken in light rain. "We're not even going to let a few raindrops bother us."
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