Demolition begins at Temple Square as part of Salt Lake Temple renovation project

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The south side of Temple Square in Salt Lake City is about to look drastically different.

Demolition on the Temple Square South Visitors’ Center and portions of the Temple Square’s south wall began Friday as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints starts a four-year renovation of its Salt Lake Temple and the surrounding grounds.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed the church’s iconic temple on Dec. 29.

The decommissioning process involves removing furnishings and sacred elements to the church from the inside of the temple in preparation for the renovation.

In the past week, hazardous materials abatement teams have begun work, according to the church.

Workers are now preparing the site ahead of excavation, the church announced Friday.

The site preparation process includes removal of statues from the grounds, including statues of the church’s founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith that stood south of temple. The two statues — each of which weigh 18,000 pounds — were put in storage.

The church also said that trees and vegetation are being removed but that they are trying to preserve some of the trees.

Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the church said in a release Friday that the tall Cedar of Lebanon tree, brought to Temple Square as a seedling more than 70 years ago, will be preserved during the renovation.

“It’s a special tree. It’s beautiful, beloved by many, so we’ll go through great efforts to preserve this tree as we excavate around it,” Kirby said.

The excavation around the Salt Lake Temple will also start soon, according to the church. The excavation will allow for access to the temple’s foundation for the installation of a base isolation system that will help protect against earthquake damage.

“We’re designing our earthquake stabilization system to withstand ground motions or forces from an earthquake similar to a 7.2 [magnitude] earthquake,” Kirby said.

The church is also emphasizing that Temple Square remains open for visitors during the renovation.

The Salt Lake Temple’s renovation is expected to be completed in 2024, and will be followed by a public open house and rededication.

The temple is one of the church’s “pioneer-era” buildings, and was completed in 1893. Several of the church’s temples from that era will be renovated, including the St. George, Manti and Logan temples.

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