Opinions tepid as Park City approves project at former art center site | ParkRecord.com

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Opinions tepid as Park City approves project at former art center site

The designs to redevelop the historic property that once housed the Kimball Art Center drew a range of opinions as they were under consideration by City Hall. An expansion is planned onto what is now a patio at one corner of the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue. Courtesy of Park City Municipal Corp.

The designs to redevelop the historic property that once housed the Kimball Art Center drew a range of opinions as they were under consideration by City Hall. An expansion is planned onto what is now a patio at one corner of the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue. Courtesy of Park City Municipal Corp.

Jim Tedford first arrived in Park City in 1963, before the city’s rise to a top-tier mountain resort and at a time when the streetscape along Main Street was quite different than it is nowadays.

The building that once housed a garage toward the bottom of Main Street was still years away from its transformation into the Kimball Art Center and decades away from another renovation that is now planned at the site to turn the property into storefronts and event space.

Tedford, a Sun Peak resident who moved from Park City in 1976 and then returned 30 years later, closely monitored the tense discussions about the future of the property, which is situated at the highly visible corner of Main Street and Heber Avenue. He founded a group known as Preserve Historic Main Street as he watched the talks about the building unfold.

City Hall staffers on Monday approved the project designs submitted by a developer that acquired the property, 638 Park Ave., from the Kimball Art Center. The not-for-profit art center moved to temporary quarters along Kearns Boulevard and is considering options for a permanent facility after its own plans to redevelop the Old Town property were rejected by the municipal government.

Tedford, who was among the critics of the modern designs the Kimball Art Center proposed for the Old Town site, said the plans that were approved on Monday fit the site better than the earlier options.

"They saved the old building. They didn’t try to radically change the Kimball Garage," Tedford said about the historic building, acknowledging the design does modify the roof, however.

Tedford said the designs meet City Hall’s restrictions on height at the site and it better reflects the architecture elsewhere along Main Street. The Kimball Art Center’s designs for the site, crafted by an acclaimed European architectural firm, were modern.

"All things considered, it’s certainly the best one anybody came up with," Tedford said.

The earlier designs were widely criticized by Main Street enthusiasts and members of Park City’s influential preservation community. Many saw them as out of place on a historic strip like Main Street. One of the designs resembled a tower of timbers while the other was shaped like a wedge. Critics seized on what they saw as introducing modernism to Main Street. The project is slated for a critical location along Main Street, one of the reasons for the contentiousness. The Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection is a high-traffic spot that is also seen as a dividing line between the historic section of Main Street to the south and the newer part to the north.

The designs that were approved on Monday differ dramatically from the ones crafted by Bjarke Ingels Group, an architectural firm from Denmark. The designed, which won the support of City Hall staffers with the authority to grant an approval, are seen as better reflecting the surrounding buildings. The designs also provide distinction between the historic building and the addition that is planned, the Park City Planning Department determined.

The lead architect on the project is Craig Elliott of Park City-based Elliott Workgroup. Elliott has been involved in a series of high-profile projects in Park City in recent years, including buildings along Main Street like the Sky Lodge and The Parkite. He has risen to become a highly sought architect in Park City with projects such as the redevelopment of Bonanza Park outside his Old Town base. The property is under the ownership umbrella of Columbus Pacific Properties, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm.

Another figure who has watched Old Town for years, Ron Butkovich, would have preferred the Kimball Art Center remain at the historic location and City Hall approve one of the earlier designs by Bjarke Ingels Group. Butkovich, the chair of the board of trustees of the Park City Historical Society and Museum, said he was a fan of the Bjarke Ingels Group’s wedge-like concept.

He said City Hall does not desire diverse architecture along Main Street. Butkovich also said the current project meets City Hall’s guidelines and that the redevelopment will preserve the historic structure. It is a "lackluster design," he said.

"There’s nothing extraordinary about the design," Butkovich said.