Renovation announced for Church Office Building Plaza — see what is changing, what is planned

Preparations are being made to start an 18-month Church Office Building Plaza renovation project, an additional significant Temple Square makeover to accompany the larger renovation of the Salt Lake Temple, which began more than a year ago.

While bearing the Church Office Building’s name, both the plaza and the project also extend to border the Church Administration Building, Joseph Smith Memorial Building and Relief Society Building.

The renovation project was announced Monday, Jan. 11, on Newsroom.

Currently, the plaza features circulating water for the large fountain outside the south entrance of the Church Office Building as well as water systems for the plaza’s trees, flower gardens and grass areas.

Renovation is needed because of leaking problems for several years with the fountain and surrounding concrete deck, posing hazards for the parking garage located directly underneath the plaza.

We are just over a year into the Salt Lake Temple renovation. Here’s how it looks

The renovation will include removing the existing water fountain, installing a new water-proofing system for the green spaces and gardens, and renewing the surrounding landscaping. The result will be the enhanced visibility of the Salt Lake Temple, said Andy Kirby, the Church’s director of historic temple renovations.

“Our design of the landscaping on this plaza and around the temple will open up access and views to the temple and make it more inviting for people to feel welcome here on the grounds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Kirby said.

An aerial-view rendering shows a renovated Church Office Building Plaza. Construction begins January 2021.
An aerial-view rendering shows a renovated Church Office Building Plaza. Construction begins January 2021. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The 28-story Church Office Building was completed in 1972 and formally dedicated in 1975. The plaza’s featured water fountain and reflecting pools were designed to mirror the granite relief maps of the world’s Eastern and Western hemispheres on the south wall of the Church Office Building.

For nearly a half-century, the fountain has served as the plaza’s central, focal feature. The intermittent water choreography is the result of various sprays rising to a variety of heights, the largest reaching 52 feet.

The fountain has also doubled as a meeting place after general conference sessions and before and after Temple Square events as well as a favored backdrop for newlyweds and their wedding photographs.

The revitalized plaza will still underscore the worldwide Church — in the fountain’s place will be a formation of international flags, representing a global faith of 16.5 million members in 196 nations and territories.

“We will remove this fountain, and we’ll have a large circle of flags here from many nations of the world to celebrate the international nature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Kirby said.

Reconstruction is expected to last about 18 months, after which efforts will then focus on the Main Street Plaza.

For the renovation, the plaza area around the Church Office Building and neighboring buildings will be closed to remove the fountain and landscaping. However, the Main Street Plaza will be open during this time.

A map shows the area of construction for the Church Office Building Plaza renovation, which begins January 2021.
A map shows the area of construction for the Church Office Building Plaza renovation, which begins January 2021. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

When announcing the Salt Lake Temple renovation in the spring of 2019, President Russell M. Nelson said the project would “enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds.”

When the entire renovation is complete, the landscaping in and around Temple Square will feel like a natural extension of the temple grounds, Kirby said.

“By the time we’re completed, the landscaping around the temple, Main Street Plaza and the Church headquarters block will all be very similar,” he said. “We’re trying to make it like it’s the same landscape, and it all relates to the temple.”