PROVO -- A flurry of rumors surrounding what the LDS Church might do with the burned out Provo Tabernacle, Tabernacle park and properties to the south became more solidified after a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.
The status indicated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had purchased the Provo Travelodge Motel and the Los 3 Amigos Restaurant on the west block of University Avenue between 100 and 200 South streets. The city of Provo currently owns the corner lot on which the former Hotel Roberts sat, on the 200 South northwest corner.
The Travelodge and Los 3 Amigos are across 100 South from the Provo Tabernacle, which was gutted by a fire late last year. The LDS Church has not yet announced what it plans to do with the Tabernacle building.
"We have sold, but I am under contract to not say who I have sold to, that Facebook wasn't from me," said Stuart Smith, owner of the Travelodge.
Wednesday evening the LDS Church issued a statement about the purchases.
"The church is still evaluating plans for the Provo Tabernacle and surrounding area and will share details as they become available. To provide options moving forward we have acquired the hotel and restaurant immediately south of the Tabernacle," said Scott Trotter, LDS Church spokesman.
The Travelodge has been one of the Provo downtown mainstays since 1959. Smith purchased it in 1987. He said he has no idea what the new owners will be doing with the property. "No one has told me."
Faustino Gonzalez, owner of Los 3 Amigos Restaurant, said he signed papers on the sale to the LDS Church on Wednesday.
"We have been working on this for over a month," Gonzalez said. "We have been open for about 20 years. Our first day was in May of 1992. The restaurant will close on Sunday."
Faustino said Los 3 Amigos will relocate to 2291 N. University Parkway and will reopen within the next two months. Most of the nine employees will continue working at the new location.
When asked what will be done with the existing building, Gonzalez said, "I believe it's going to be torn down."
Smith said he has already liquidated much of the motel property like furniture, televisions, towels, etc., to a motel in Richfield and to some other local motels.
"I might hold a big yard sale in a few weeks," Smith said. He also said the Travelodge would not be relocated, but will close for good.
Mayor John Curtis said he is constantly being asked what the LDS Church will do with the Tabernacle.
"I have been asked in meetings, at the grocery store, and I was even asked when I was visiting in Des Moines, Iowa, what the church would do. This shows how important it is to our community."
As late as last year and just prior to the fire, city representatives had approached the church about some improvements to the Tabernacle park area.
Curtis added, "It's clear from the church's activity that they are invested. It's one more validation the church considers it an important piece of property."
Rumors about plans for the Tabernacle property have been running rampant for months. They range from the LDS Church putting in a walking garden like the City Creek project in Salt Lake, to a parking facility of some kind with a shopping center on the Hotel Roberts property that would include Deseret Book, an LDS Distribution Center and all things LDS, to museums.
Rumors also include ideas about the inside of the Tabernacle building, including everything from what country the new organ is being purchased from, to the Tabernacle featuring a center spire like it had in the early 1900s. All these rumors have kept residents waiting with great anticipation on an LDS Church announcement.
The city block south of the Tabernacle also is the home of Provo's downtown post office. Recent announcements of postal locations being closed throughout the nation also raised rumors about Provo's downtown post office.
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, acknowledged that he had been a conduit for the city in discussions about the Provo post office.
"To the best of my knowledge there has not been a formal offer made, but there could be things behind the scenes going on that I'm not aware of," Chaffetz said. "The post office is open to considering an offer."
Chaffetz said the post office is trying to downsize its offices, so it wouldn't be out of the question that the Provo downtown office would sell.
Last year the city purchased the Hotel Roberts property with no particular purpose in mind, according to Paul Glauser, Provo Redevelopment Agency director. To his knowledge the church has not purchased that property and he doesn't know what its involvement might be.
"I had heard they were working on Travelodge and possibly Los 3 Amigos," Glauser said. "What I'm hearing is pretty exciting if it's true. Whatever the church does it will be first class."