Church leaders, however, didn't see it that way.
"Someday, the south end of Salt Lake City is going to be an important part of the economic development of this city. We want it preserved so somebody can come in and really maximize what can be done to bless the city, Main Street and its environs," Bishop H. David Burton told the Deseret News last week. "The church stepped in to make sure it was available when it was time economically for something to happen in that part of the city."
In a wide-ranging interview with the Deseret News, Bishop Burton, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discussed the church's philosophy about real estate.
In many ways, that purchase is representative of the ways in which the LDS Church, one of the city's largest property owners, and the city have worked hand in hand for more than a century to transform what some dismissed as an arid wasteland into one of the most vibrant cities in the West.
"It is in our DNA," says Bishop Burton. For Bishop Burton, every project the city has taken on in Salt Lake has been part of Brigham Young's vision to "make the desert bloom."