Contractor says property owner hired him to tear down Fifth Ward meetinghouse

Apr 3, 2024, 3:22 PM

partially demolished fifth ward meetinghouse...

(Peter Johnston/KSL NewsRadio)

(Peter Johnston/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The property owner of the historic Fifth Ward meetinghouse in Salt Lake City ordered it demolished, according to the contractor who partly tore it down.

Karl Christensen, owner of MoveMan Demolition LLC, told KSL NewsRadio that real estate developer Jordan Atkin hired him to demolish the building.

“Jordan paid me to demolish. That’s what I do,” Christensen said.

Atkin explained it differently to a couple of potential buyers who were in talks with him to acquire the property.

“[Atkin] said it was a ‘dramatic miscommunication,” said one interested buyer, Craig Sorensen. “And that the contractor that was supposed to come was supposed to clear a few trees and things on the outside of the building.

But through this dramatic miscommunication, they somehow thought [the building] was supposed to be demolished.”

KSL NewsRadio asked Christensen whether Atkin asked him to work on the trees and landscape.

“There’s no land there to clear,” Christensen said.

According to Christensen, he’s worked with Atkin for years on dozens of other demolition projects. He said these buildings were typically houses and not commercial properties.

KSL NewsRadio reached out to Atkin for comment but has not yet received a response.

“I honestly thought it was an April Fool’s joke”

Sorensen told KSL NewsRadio that he and his business partner Jacob Buck had spent “the last few months” in talks with Atkin and the city to buy this historic property. He said they wanted to turn it into a communal space for people of color and LGBTQ Utahns.

“It was a pretty good communication that ‘Oh, this is the direction we’re going.’ And also Jordan [Atkin] himself was at our presentation to the Granary District on March 20. He seemed excited and saw what work we were putting in, and was even with us saying ‘I can’t wait to get this done and get a deal by April,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen added that he and Buck had discussed possible prices with Atkin. They also invited a structural engineer and an architect to assess the worth of the property. However, the day before the architect examined the building, Buck stumbled upon a track hoe leveling the front room of the meetinghouse.

“At first when he told me, I honestly thought it was an April fool’s joke… but he’s like, ‘Craig, it’s March 31.”

The current state of the meetinghouse

City planners scrambled to issue a stop work order once they realized there was no permit to demolish the meetinghouse. According to Nick Norris, director of Salt Lake City’s planning division, city employees confronted Christensen and called the police. Norris said Christensen fled and left the excavator behind.


The Fifth Ward meetinghouse has stood at 740 South and 300 West since 1910 and has a spot on both the local and national historic registries, according to Building Salt Lake.

The future of the Fifth Ward meetinghouse

Sorensen said he and Buck are seriously reconsidering whether to acquire the property.

“There was so much work that needed to be done already,” said Sorensen. “We realized that over one or two million dollars in renovations needed to be done to the building already… We’re hoping to get more answers from the city’s investigation, and perhaps take over the project after that.”

The Salt Lake City council discussed how to beef up penalties for violators of city demolition rules during their Tuesday evening. The council said in a news release they would consider creating new fees and increasing existing ones for stop-work orders.

Related: Angel Moroni returns to Salt Lake Temple nearly four years after removal

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Contractor says property owner hired him to tear down Fifth Ward meetinghouse