Over the years the Continental Bank Building was owned by a series of financial institutions. By the early 1990s the upper floors were largely vacant and neglected. The building's owners claimed that renovating it would be prohibitively expensive and that its narrow footprint was not suitable for modem offices. Despite efforts by the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency to identify potential developers, eventual demolition of this landmark seemed a real threat.
Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief in the summer of 1997 when word spread that the Kimpton Group was interested in purchasing the Continental Bank Building. Kimpton Group is well-known for renovating historic buildings to house stylish, upscale hotels and restaurants. In June 1998, the company bought the bank building and seven small buildings to the south along Main Street. A zoning variance and a low-interest loan from the Salt Lake City RDA helped make the deal pencil out for Kimpton.
After a fast-track, one-year project, the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City opened in July of 1999. The building's upper floors were completely remodeled to accommodate the new hotel rooms. Project architects, however, worked closely with State Historic Preservation Office staff to insure elements of the bank's elegant lobby were preserved. This commitment to preservation allowed the Kimpton Group to utilize the federal rehabilitation tax credit in financing the project.
Original interior bronze and glass walls now divide the lobby promenade from a destination restaurant. A line of teller windows serves as a divider "wall" within the restaurant. The original bank vault has become the restaurant's walk-in cooler. The project also preserved original marble flooring and ornaments made of a simulated travertine called "artex."
As this preservation success story illustrates, the problem with "economically unviable" historic buildings often lies in the perception of developers rather than in the buildings themselves. The vision of the Kimpton Group combined with the incentives offered by Salt Lake City Corporation and the federal government have transformed a vacant and deteriorating landmark into a thoroughly modem hotel with a delightful historic atmosphere.