The Bjarke Ingels Group substantially revised its initial design for the Kimball Art Center Expansion project but it, too, has been deemed out of character
The Bjarke Ingels Group substantially revised its initial design for the Kimball Art Center Expansion project but it, too, has been deemed out of character for the historic district. (Rendering by Bjarke Ingels Group)

City Hall on Thursday rejected the designs of the Kimball Art Center's expansion proposal, determining they do not meet the municipal government's strict Old Town guidelines.

It was a significant setback as the not-for-profit organization attempts to press ahead with an ambitious redo of the high-profile intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue. The expansion is proposed to be built on the art center's patio, steps off the intersection.

The decision was outlined in a notice signed by Anya Grahn, who is the preservation planner at City Hall, and Planning Director Thomas Eddington. The notice does not provide details, but it indicates the Kimball Art Center may appeal the staff-level decision. The not-for-profit art center has a window to appeal the decision to the Historic Preservation Board, City Hall's Old Town panel. The 10-day window closes at 5 p.m. on Sept. 2.

Eddington said in an interview staffers found the design of the proposed expansion did not relate to the historic Kimball Art Center building "aesthetically, visually or historically." The proposal also was not found to be compatible with the historic streetscape along Main Street, Eddington said. He said the expansion, as designed, would not be a contributing structure to the national historic district along Main Street.

"There was a lot of effort put into this building," Eddington acknowledged. "Everyone wants for the Kimball to be in this location.


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Robin Marrouche, the executive director of the Kimball Art Center, said in a prepared statement the organization will consider how to proceed.

"Our main focus at the Kimball Art Center is how to best serve the community. Our board of directors is surprised and disappointed with the city's decision, but we will move forward with evaluating the most viable options for keeping art thriving in and around Park City. This outcome is not what we had hoped for, but we respect the process, and we will take time to determine our next steps," she said in the statement.

The Kimball Art Center selected a renowned Danish architectural firm, Bjarke Ingels Group, to draft the designs. The design rejected on Thursday was Bjarke Ingels Group's second concept for the Kimball Art Center expansion. The first, resembling a stacked pile of timber, was widely criticized as a design that would not fit in Old Town. The Kimball Art Center did not pursue the first design as far into the process as it did the second one.

The second design drew a mix of praise and criticism from Parkites. Park City leaders for years have strictly regulated buildings designs along Main Street as they attempted to keep a mining-era feel on the street. Doing so, they have long said, maintains a unique character. The most notable departure -- the modern design of the former Main Street Mall -- was criticized as looking out of place on the streetscape. That building is now being redeveloped with a look that fits more closely with the surrounding buildings.

The rejected Kimball Art Center expansion design drew wildly diverse opinions from Parkites and others since the spring. During testimony in front of City Hall staffers in late March, speakers offered a range of opinions. Roughly two-thirds of the speakers supported the proposal.

The supporters in late March touched on topics like it is not unusual for expansions of historic buildings to not resemble the original design and that the design would be iconic. The opponents, though, countered that Main Street is not the place for a modern design and that the expansion could set a precedent.

City Hall, meanwhile, received more than 300 email messages in the spring, the majority being in favor of the designs. One of the messages in support mentioned that places like Rome, Paris and New York have mixed old and new architecture well. One of the opposition message indicated the design fits in Bjarke Ingels Group's home country but not in Old Town.

The Kimball Art Center's expansion proposal calls for a 15,000-square-foot addition that would range in height from 32 feet tall to 46 feet tall. It would be connected to the existing building on both stories. The leadership wants to double the Kimball Art Center's space with the expansion. The new square footage would include room for exhibitions and programs.