Proposed Kimball Art Center addition is no Eiffel Tower
October 10, 2012
Gordon Mills’ Sept. 26 take on opposition to Kimball Art Center’s (KAC) nonconforming addition is interesting. As an architect from Dubuque, Iowa, he claims to have worked with a number of communities with strong historic preservation efforts, yet he is surprised our locals want the KAC to comply with the Land Management Code and Design Guidelines.
Vigilant adherence to zoning and design requirements are essential for a small community like Park City to avoid long complicated legal engagements while maintaining its status as a world-class resort attracting hundreds of thousands of guests each year.
Our winter visitors come here to ski our pristine slopes, then in the evening enjoy shopping or dining in a charming setting that takes them far away from the daily grind they deal with at home. Summer guests, many from the Wasatch Front, visit Park City to spend a one-day vacation visiting Old Town’s eclectic mix of shops and eateries.
Tourism is the engine that powers our economy and it is fueled by a Western turn-of-the-century atmosphere. It is essential that Park City maintains the ambiance that our visitors expect to find if we are to continue to succeed in a very competitive market.
A massive futuristic structure of stacked trestle wood, twisting eighty feet up into the middle of Historic Main Street’s sky, will be completely out of context and confusing. I have visited places myself that had odd, unexplainable elements that I would rather not see again. I could hear people make remarks to each other like, "What were they thinking?" or "What in the world is that?"
Mr. Mills asks us to think about other communities with strong historic character that likely opposed groundbreaking projects like the Eiffel Tower. Please, I have seen the Eiffel Tower up close and the proposed KAC addition is no Eiffel Tower.
Mr. Mills began his editorial by commending Park City for their strong efforts in planning that gives it a "wonderful character and sense of place," then he ends by saying, "This is a one-time opportunity to make an exception to our codes and guidelines." It is his feeling that public or quasi-public facilities like the KAC should be considered an exception to the rules. In this case that means commercial building heights would be doubled.
Mr. Mills encourages us to give the architects reasonable latitude to pursue their design objectives. I don’t doubt that Mr. Mills and all those involved in this project are well-meaning, doing what they feel is the best for Park City and the KAC. I am equally sure every developer would also like their architects to have as much latitude as they require. That is what the Land Management Code is for: to protect our community in the form of the Historic Design Guidelines.
In my opinion it is critical that everyone respect the rules. There will certainly be future projects where a developer and architect want to rezone a site to MPD (Master Planned Development) to get around the existing rules. Hopefully they will be told that Park City makes no exceptions. It can be a strong position that will stand up in court, or maybe not if the developer can point out the window at another project that was allowed to exceed the rules.
Let’s slow down and take another look at all proposed projects through the eyes of the surrounding residents who will be greatly impacted by it. Blocked views and sunlight, excess noise, additional parking requirements and the intrusion by someone else’s existential idea of attractive architecture are just a few of the problems we will be forced to deal with if we weaken the Design Guidelines or allow an end run with an MPD, in Old Town or anywhere else in Park City.