To Von Whitby, the proposed expansion of the Kimball Art Center would be iconic, something that would be a "giant step for a small town . . . "
"The Kimball Art Center design, in its way is an Eiffel Tower or the glass Pyramid at the Louvre. The great statement the design makes is one of sophistication, forward thinking and risk taking all in the pursuit of art, culture and diversity," Whitby said in a March 20 email to the Park City Planning Department. "I strongly urge you to embrace this giant step for a small town and make a statement that in years to come will, I believe, become in its own way an icon for all who see it."
But David Teasley sees the idea differently. He is one of the people who does not support the expansion designs.
"The images of the proposed Kimball Art Center design, if accurate show a structure that has no place in Park City. I support the Kimball, but not this design. It looks like LA. If folks around here want LA, then they should move there. Don't change the character of Old Town," Teasley wrote in an email to the Planning Department, also on March 20.
The two messages were among the 320 email comments City Hall received in recent weeks. Officials released the emails to The Park Record in response to a request under state open records laws.
The emails show passion from the supporters of the Kimball Art Center expansion as well as the critics. They cover a broad range of topics and come from people who live across the community. Many of the supporters argue that the expansion will fit in Old Town even with its modern design. They say it will provide a boost to Park City's arts community. The other side, though, contends that the expansion will look out of place on a historic streetscape like Main Street.
There were far more emails in support of the expansion. The supporters' emails outnumbered those from the critics by a nearly four-to-one margin. Upward of 245 of the messages appeared to be in clear support while approximately 67 were in clear opposition. It was difficult to decipher support or opposition in a few of the messages. Some of the critics' messages praised the Kimball Art Center's role in the community and the idea of an expansion. The proposed design, however, is problematic, they said.
The Kimball Art Center expansion proposal -- both the current blueprints and an earlier concept -- has become one of the battlegrounds in Old Town. There have been few development ideas along Main Street or in the surrounding neighborhood in recent years that have spurred such a division.
The design comes from a renowned Danish architect, and the Kimball Art Center sees the expansion as something that will work well alongside the not-for-profit organization's historic building. The expansion would be built at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue, one of the highest-profile locations in the Park City area.
The Kimball Art Center' expansion idea calls for a 15,000-square-foot concrete addition ranging in height from 32 feet tall to 46 feet tall. It would be connected to the existing building on both stories. It would double the Kimball Art Center's space. The new square footage would include room for exhibitions and programs. Kimball Art Center officials say an addition to a historic building typically does not emulate the original one.
The letters were released as City Hall continues to consider the idea. Planning Department staffers recently received testimony covering similar topics to those brought up in the messages. The late-March input session was the only opportunity for someone to provide verbal opinions in a formal City Hall setting.
The Kimball Art Center needs two approvals from the Planning Department to proceed with the expansion as envisioned. One of the approvals involves the design while the other one deals with height. The decisions could be made as early as late spring.
Excerpts from a sampling of the messages include: