Kimball mulls an expansion | ParkRecord.com

Kimball mulls an expansion

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Kimball Art Center officials, starting what will likely be a tiff with people who own condominiums next door, have approached City Hall with ambiguous ideas to expand the standard-bearer Old Town structure.

They maintain, though, they are not yet ready to pursue a development on the grounds, situated steps off the busy Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. Kimball leaders say they are exploring whether some of their largely vacant property, primarily facing Main Street, can be built upon.

The Kimball’s moves, which included a recent appearance in front of the city’s Planning Commission, come as new leadership arrives at the nonprofit center, one of Park City’s best-known arts groups and the organizer of the annual Kimball Arts Festival, held in August.

The talks between the Kimball and City Hall will likely stretch over months if the art center files papers to develop the property. With the Kimball sitting at one of the most visible corners in Park City, city officials, including the Planning Commission, would be especially cautious.

"It’s probably one of the best corners of any resort town in the country, so it’s pretty valuable," acknowledges Bruce Larrabee, a ceramic artist who this week became the Kimball executive director after serving in an interim role since the spring.

The Kimball wants City Hall to loosen the zoning on the Main Street side of the property — the plaza now dominated by a sculpture of an Olympic torch and a patio slightly recessed from Main Street. Doing so would give the space the same development potential as other places on Main Street, according to a City Hall report about the Kimball’s bid to switch the zoning on the land.

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Planning Commissioners were not scheduled to cast a vote on the change in zoning, and those decisions are ultimately made by the Park City Council.

Several Planning Commissioners warned that the Kimball property is critical, with Dick Peek, a member of the panel, saying he is worried a development could ruin the historic significance of the building and allow it to be torn down. The Kimball says the historic building that houses the art center would not be redeveloped with residential units.

Larrabee says there are several possibilities for the Main Street-facing property, but he wants a public Main Street entrance to the Kimball put into designs. That would make it easier for people to visit the Kimball, which now has its main entrance on Heber Avenue.

If the Kimball puts up a new building, Larrabee says some of the functions could include additional gallery space, which would give the art center the ability to hold larger exhibits, a Kimball store and, potentially, conference space. He says the Kimball has not fully explored the possibility of putting residential space in a new building.

Condominiums or other sorts of residential units are typically more valuable than retail space, and recent developers on Main Street oftentimes build condominiums on the upper floors of buildings and put storefronts or restaurants on the street level.

Larrabee says residential space could be built to house visiting artists, but he also says the Kimball has not determined whether to try to sell the residences someday under a different scenario. Condominiums there would likely command high dollars, with the Kimball having a Main Street location that is close to Park City Mountain Resort’s Town Lift.

The Kimball sits across Main Street from the Sky Lodge, one of Park City’s largest buildings, and is diagonal from the Silver Queen Hotel, another of Main Street’s larger buildings.

The development prospects at the Kimball worry some people who live in the next-door Town Lift Condominiums. They worry an expansion could disrupt their views and drop the value of their property. Coleen Webb, a Houston resident who is the president of the board of directors of the homeowners association there, says the building’s hallway windows and bedroom windows in two units face the Kimball land.

Webb fears a building could be too tall and built close to her building. That could block sunlight on the south-facing side of the condominiums, she says, worrying the land could become "boxier, less free-flowing."

Webb, meanwhile, is concerned the Kimball is seeking the zoning change without having finalized development plans, saying the art center would be given a "free hand" if the zoning is loosened.

"Today it has an open feel, and you still have a view of the mountain," she says.

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