A critic of the Kimball Art Center's expansion idea on Wednesday night said the project could bring down property values in the vicinity, a concern that has not been widely spoken about even as others have expressed unhappiness with the Kimball's concept.
Chris Schaefer briefly addressed the Park City Planning Commission, touching on other topics related to the Kimball Art Center as well. He said the expansion, as designed, does not fit the location and does not complement the existing Kimball Art Center building. The comments were similar to those made by other critics recently.
The comment about property values, though, was notable. Declining property values are sometimes cited in development disputes elsewhere in Park City, but they are less common in the Main Street core.
Schaefer owns a condominium in the Town Lift Condominiums, steps from the Kimball Art Center. He said in an interview he has owned the condominium for 15 years or so. He spends half the year in Park City and lives in Houston the other half.
He said potential buyers might consider other places if the Kimball Art Center presses ahead with the expansion with the current design.
"I'd go to Vail. I'd go to Telluride . . . I'm certainly not going to buy a condo next to what looks like a rather outlandish office building," he said, adding, "It totally destroys the character of Old Town, Park City."
Schaefer said his condominium could suffer a 50 percent drop in market value if the Kimball Art Center expansion is built as it is designed now. His place in the building faces the other direction and the art center cannot be seen from his windows.
He said a Kimball Art Center expansion that is better suited to the site could provide a boost to property values.
The Planning Commission was not scheduled to hold a significant discussion about the Kimball Art Center or City Hall processes related to the idea. One other person, Meg Ryan, spoke briefly about the art center. She addressed procedural matters. She once was a City Hall planner.
The Kimball Art Center's expansion design was developed by an architectural firm called Bjarke Ingels Group, sometimes referred to as BIG. The firm has offices in Copenhagen, Denmark, and New York City. The design quickly became a polarizing item. The supporters see it as becoming a landmark while detractors claim it does not fit in the historic district.
The proposal would add approximately 30,000 square feet to the Kimball Art Center. The design reaches a height of 80 feet and uses stacked railroad trestles as a primary architectural feature. Leaders at the art center have said there could be changes to the design based on input from Park City officials and Parkites. The Kimball Art Center has not submitted formal paperwork for City Hall to begin considering the expansion.
The chairman of the art center's board of directors, Matt Mullin, said in an interview he could not predict with certainty what sort of impact the project would have on property values nearby. He said he expects the expansion will not hurt the property values, though.
He said the Kimball Art Center has not conducted a study to show what impacts the project would have on views from nearby locations. One could be done later if the expansion advances and City Hall requests such a study. Views of the mountains are a selling point for real estate along Main Street and in nearby Old Town.
The Kimball Art Center says the expansion is needed to provide more space for its programs. It will also move the main entrance to the Main Street side of the building.
The expansion would be built on what is now the Kimball Art Center's patio at the Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection, one of the highest-profile locations in Park City.