Salt Lake City has choreographed how to finance downtown's Broadway-class theater, and how's this for a curtain call? There would money left over for other arts groups.
    Mayor Ralph Becker hopes to broker a deal to funnel sales taxes from the LDS Church's $1.5 billion City Creek Center to a state arts fund that, in turn, could finance the construction and operation of a 2,400-seat Broadway-style playhouse.
    The $81.5 million theater would be located at 135 S. Main - with entrances on Main and Regent streets - just a short stroll from the church's 20-acre "lifestyle center."
    The financial blueprint would require a so-called Community Development Area - including buy-in from Salt Lake County and the state - and would provide extra cash to arts agencies statewide, Becker said, easing the box-office blow a new theater could pose to other venues.
    "There would be substantially more revenue than we would need for this theater," Becker said after a Thursday ceremony to unveil the site at the former Newspaper Agency Corp. building. "That's for both capital costs and the operation."
    Standing before a black curtain lined with Broadway brochures, the mayor announced the city's Redevelopment Agency has one year to negotiate the purchase of the property from the LDS Church.
    LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. were on hand for the presentation.
    Burton said he is "honored" to help bring a world-class theater downtown, calling Thursday a "chocolate-chip-cookie day."
    He said the theater, dubbed The Utah Performance Center on Main, would bolster downtown and build on the successes of neighboring City Creek Center, a retail, office and residential hub scheduled for completion in 2012. City leaders project the theater could open about the same time.
    Huntsman said a downtown playhouse would provide a "huge boost" to the state, be a boon for young performers, and help people "rise above the cacophony of life."
    "We're all going to work really hard to make this a reality in Ralph Becker's city," Huntsman said.
    Sandy also is moving ahead on a mixed-use development near 10000 South and Interstate 15, anchored by a $55 million Broadway-style theater, which could open in September 2011.
    A Salt Lake County study analyzing the need for such arts venues is expected early next month.
    Phil Jordan, director of the county's Center for the Arts, said having more competition is "clearly a negative," but noted, for arts lovers, the planned theater's proximity to existing venues is "a positive."
    Bill Becker, the mayor's brother and a Tony Award-winning producer picked to head the theater search, said the Main Street locale is clearly the top spot. It is 100 feet from 600 parking spaces, he said, and allows for rehearsal space and a black-box stage. Plus, it could incorporate retail and housing on property that extends along Main to 100 South.
    If realized, the project could meld with downtown redevelopment. City Creek builders plan to extend Regent Street north of 100 South for a "restaurant row." On the existing stretch of Regent, once a red-light district, city planners envision a spruced-up walkway from Gallivan Center to City Creek Center.
    Becker foresees no "big red flags" on the historic-preservation front, but vowed to work with the appropriate agencies before demolition. The mayor also plans to seek up to $18 million in federal tax credits for the project.
    Ultimately, Becker said, the theater could be owned by the city or in combination with a private partner - but probably not the LDS Church, which some insiders feared could create controversy by censoring content.
    "The church does not have an interest in being a long-term partner," Becker said.
    That doesn't mean President Thomas S. Monson isn't a theater fan. During the recent LDS conference, while describing his love of musicals, Monson said his wife calls him a "show-a-holic."
    Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said the governor "certainly" supports Becker's Broadway push, but insisted his presence did not signal a preference for Salt Lake City's plan over Sandy's.
    Capital Councilman J.T. Martin, pointing to the presence of Burton and Huntsman, isn't so sure. "It's more," Martin said, "than just a hardy handshake and good luck."
    djensen@sltrib.com