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Ground-breaking set for long-awaited downtown Brigham City hotel

By Tim Gurrister, Standard-Examiner Staff - | Feb 3, 2014
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(Contributed to the Standard-Examiner)A street view of the Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing building, 64 N. Main St. Brigham City officials hope to renovate the building's interior and use it as meeting space in the future.

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(Contributed to the Standard-Examiner)A street view of the Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing building, 64 N. Main St. Brigham City officials hope to renovate the building and use it as building space in the future.

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The Christensen Academy of Music and Dancing sits on the northern edge of downtown Brigham City. The Christensen family, who built the hall in 1903, were major figures in the history of American ballet. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

BRIGHAM CITY — A second big step comes this week for the city’s plans 15 years in the making for the downtown hub.

Ground-breaking is set Thursday for the Hampton Inn hotel, meant to anchor the emerging Academy Square, landmark seat of government in Box Elder County.

It was 15 years ago “things got serious” in developing Academy Square, City Manager Bruce Leonard said.

“But it’s been in people’s minds for quite a while,” he said, possibly all the way back to the 1970s when a car dealership was replaced by the current City Hall. The old city hall became the Chamber of Commerce, both now the western face of Academy Square.

Culminating three years of planning and site purchases, ground-breaking for the 73-bed Hampton Inn, a Hilton subsidiary, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the 59 N. 100 East site.

Academy Square is named for the restored Christensen Academy of Music and Dance, a historic structure first opened in 1903. Next door to the Hampton site and purchased by the city in 1998, it’s envisoned as a community center and reception hall once its upstairs dance floor is refurbished.

The Hampton should draw 25,000 patrons a year, according to estimates from City Economic Development Director Paul Larsen. The city expects 75,000 visitors a year for the Brigham City LDS Temple two blocks to the south.

The traditional town square has been called many names in city planning documents and records over the years, including Block 20, and City Center Plaza, before the Academy Square moniker stuck in 1999.

The block — once bisected by Forest Street and bounded by Main Street, 1st East, and 1st North — was called “Main Square” in a 146-year-old survey from pioneer times dated 1868, according to a history of the city’s civic heart compiled by Larsen.

Back then, Forest was known as Locust Street, 1st North as North Street and 1st East was Pleasant Street.

The hotel’s anchoring of Academy Square, which also includes the historic Box Elder County Courthouse, comes at a time when much of the city’s business growth has moved south, with better access to Interstate 15 and near the Walmart in Perry.

The city’s four current hotels and motels include three on or within a block of 11th South and the fourth at 7th South.

The city council in December approved $3.9 million in bonding to finish the remodeling of the Academy building with construction bids expected to open later this month.

The two-story structure at 64 N. Main was built in 1903 by the sons of Danish immigrants, Christian and Peter Christensen, as an arts school and dance hall.

A member of the Christensen family, William Christensen, went on to choreograph “The Nutcracker” ballet for the San Francisco Ballet, now a staple of holiday cheer.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, tgurrister@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister


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