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Draper Journal

Materials, a historic chapel, and people are given second chances at The Point

Oct 12, 2023 09:42AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

The final tower at the old prison site came crashing down Aug. 30 when The Point’s officials showed the progress they’ve made at the site in just under one year. The first tower was toppled last November. Demolition is more than 90% complete. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

Sustainable practices and second chances are happening at the site where the prison once stood. 

The majority of the materials from the old prison have been recycled, the historic prison chapel has been saved, and some of the demolition workers are former inmates who’ve turned their lives around. Demolition is more than 90% complete and the site is well on its way to transitioning to The Point, a project touted to benefit Draper residents and all the people of Utah.

Just 10 months since the public was invited to watch the first guard tower come crashing down, the final of several towers at the site was demolished Aug. 30. With the exception of the chapel, all that remains of the old prison buildings are piles of concrete that are quickly disappearing. 

Draper resident and retired history teacher Todd Shoemaker long advocated for preserving the historic chapel which was slated for demolition, but the Lieutenant Governor and other officials from The Point chose to save the Chapel by the Wayside shortly before it faced demise. 

“We are intentionally preserving the chapel…as an appropriate aspect of the site’s legacy…built by the inmates themselves…that place was considered one of the most positive aspects…a place where they could find solace and peace,” said Utah House Representative and Land Authority co-chair Jordan Teuscher.

Statistics provided by The Point indicate that more than 70% of materials at the site have been recycled, including 100% of the concrete from the old buildings. It was crushed and recycled on-site to save wear and tear on the roads, disturbance to surrounding communities, and emissions that would have resulted from trucking it to an outside facility. Invasive species such as Russian olive trees were taken down and ground into mulch. That mulch is currently being used to mitigate dust and will be reused in future landscaping. 

“From day one we made a commitment to Utahns that we would conduct our work at The Point in a sustainable manner…Concrete…is being crushed onsite for use in the foundation of new buildings and to build future roads,” said Alan Matheson, The Point’s executive director. 

Caleb Towns is Senior Project Manager of prison demolition for Grant Mackay. “Over 157,000 tons of material has been repurposed or reused. We’ve recycled enough concrete to build over 1,000 homes, enough steel to build 66 four-story structures, enough asphalt to build over 5 miles of road and enough rebar to build 540 cars. This wasn’t easy, but this was the task put before us. The workers are the reason we’ve been able to be safe and recycle as much material as we could on this project,” he said.

For some of the workers, being involved in tearing down the old prison was especially cathartic. Their story parallels that of the site, changing from a place of constraint to a place of opportunity. That’s because some of the people hired by Mackay spent time inside those foreboding concrete walls surrounded by razor wire. Corey Kiesel described being part of the demolition as “the ultimate rage room…It’s good to see it gone,” he said. Kiesel has been working on the site since April, a place he previously spent 12 years locked up. “It was weird coming back, being on the other side,” he said. 

Matt Bryant said it’s been “very meaningful” for him to be part of the demolition crew. He understands why it’s hard to get a job with a record, but he said Mackay is willing to give people like him a chance. Bryant struggled with drug addiction and was first sent to the aged prison when he was 27. He was an inmate there five times for three- or four-year stints. He described his first day as a prisoner as, “Just a sick feeling…everything comes crashing down at once. I had to call my mom and dad and break their hearts.” In stark contrast, for his first day on the demolition crew, he was outside running a processor to chew up concrete and separate the rebar. Now 43 and three years clean from drugs and alcohol, he’s been working at the site for the last six months. “I made my mom and dad a promise that I would clean up my life before they passed away, and now it’s my turn to take care of them,” he said. 

Officials with the project remind the public that, as a result of a great amount of public input, The Point will become a place of opportunity benefitting the people of Utah for generations to come. “Utahns will be able to choose a wide variety of options. They’ll be able to bike, walk, take transit, drive…there will be parks, trails, sporting events and picnics. There will be a wide range of housing options, world class retail…diverse dining, premiere entertainment such as concerts and sporting events, and high-quality jobs,” Teuscher said. 

It’s also a complete turnaround from a place of confinement to a place of opportunity specifically for Draper because the state’s 600 acres, owned by the taxpayers, falls within city limits. “One of the things we needed in Utah was a new prison. When you couple it with this opportunity…a place where the state owns the property…the benefit the taxpayers are going to have is amazing,” Draper Mayor Troy Walker said. Walker reiterated that he still dreams of getting an NFL or NHL team headquartered at The Point. 

According to officials, all demolition will be complete in October, one month shy of one year since it began last November. Infrastructure including roadways, water, power and trails will begin to be built. Following infrastructure, development of 100 acres in the heart of the project known as “Phase One” will start to take shape as soon as 2025. 

“We look forward to this being in Draper City as a city, not a prison,” Walker said. λ