Written by Jaki Enders, CNN
The Joy Oil gas station is a testament to the type of colorful, quirky and kitschy aesthetic that took Utah’s Fort Union neighborhood by storm in the 1940s.
Built in 1937, the Fort Union area, named after the fort that stood at the end of the stretch of North Temple between 200 East and 400 South, was the epicenter of Los Angeles’ warehouse district and, with it, the Wild West-style spirits serving as its foundation.
The 8,351-square-foot convenience store has remained an active part of that patchwork; selling beer, wine and cigarettes for nearly 80 years.
But in November, the Joy Oil facility at 455 N. Main St. was pulled from the Heritage Lot Fund program and deemed “not feasible,” the website Historic Frontier, which campaigned for the property to be restored, said in a statement
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Now, almost 10 months later, the Historic Frontier preservation group is pushing for the city to return the property to its original condition, “so that it can once again become a unique cultural resource for all of Utah.”
Designated for “protected historic character,” the city’s heritage regulations make preservation “a priority of the city,” according to the website.
The lobby of the original Joy Oil gas station. courtesy walk along
“We want to support the modern meaning of heritage and make sure we’re providing opportunities for new generations to explore, understand and enjoy these charming and unique properties,” Craig Hubeman, the owner of the Fort Union property, said in a statement provided to CNN.
“But we have to be realistic in our projections as well. Many historic buildings and institutions are located within our current and future housing communities. Our current housing markets are reaching breaking points because of rising costs of land and construction. So, the basement will not be improved.”
A listing on the website of HUB Brands , another property in the area with a heritage designation, says building owners and occupants are required to cover all necessary costs of restoration — from demolition to rehab — within 30 days, and if they can’t, they forfeit the property for 100% of its value.
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And so, while city officials have been taking steps to preserve the building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the cost and complexity of restoration make it difficult to remove the building from the heritage ordinance.
“This is one of the most strategic units in the historic district, and the city needs to determine a path forward,” according to Rick White, president of The Heritage Lot Fund.
If the city deemed the property to be important and applicable for restoration, it could be offered to a private property owner for a specified period of time. The Heritage Lot Fund would then purchase the property and undertake the preservation work, if and when that time comes.
“Instead of wasting time and taxpayer money on preservation, the city should target renovation projects such as the revamp of the Fort Union Library or the Edith Jones House,” White told CNN.
In the meantime, a website launched on Wednesday, a crowdfunding project and a list of other possible remedies will keep the energy up on the Heritage Lot Fund campaign.