Sundance retrofit progresses
July 15, 2006
The glamorous, the famous and those who have aspirations to be like them will not be milling about, talking on cell phones and competing for the attention of photographers on Aug. 20.
They’ll save that for January, when the 2007 Sundance Film Festival makes its annual run in Park City.
But the August date, a Sunday, is of significance this year for the Sundance organizers, who that day plan to move their Utah headquarters from Salt Lake City to Park City, a result of deal-making between Sundance, City Hall and the developers of the Silver Star project on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.
In the spring and the summer, Parkites saw earthmoving equipment and then construction crews at Silver Star, a development on the western edge of Thaynes Canyon that sits on a hillside visible to lots of people in the neighborhood and others who are driving on streets like Kearns Boulevard.
However, inside two old mining-era buildings, the Silver Star team has quietly been retrofitting what were run-down structures into space for Sundance.
Rory Murphy, who leads Silver Star, says, with a little more than a month before he must turn over the space to Sundance, the crews are on schedule. He has predicted he would hit the deadline for some time and, this week, says he is "100 percent confident."
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"It’s gone quite well. I’m very pleased with the way the building’s turning out," he says.
Murphy, who is 42 years old and been a player in Park City’s lucrative development market for more than a decade, has long touted the work on the mining-era buildings for Sundance as one of the most ambitious renovations in Park City’s history.
The institute’s year-round office will occupy what was a machine shop in the mining days. Murphy added a second floor to the building, which totals about 5,000 square feet, during the renovation.
An old sawmill, meanwhile, encompassing about 2,000 square feet, is also being fixed up. Sundance will get the space in the period around the annual film festival and during the rest of the year the developers plan to provide studio space for artists.
"I think that the location is unique. The historic architecture really lends itself to the spirit of the independent film festival," Murphy says, adding that the rent the developers are charging Sundance is "discounted" but not "particularly deep."
Sundance’s interest in Silver Star has made the development more notable than lots of other projects in Park City in recent years. As the developers were courting Sundance, the institute was also in talks with City Hall, resulting in a landmark accord between the local government and the institute in which Sundance agreed to hold the film festival in Park City for two decades.
City Hall and the Park City Chamber/Bureau agreed to financial inducements for Sundance as part of the long-term deal for the film festival, totaling $380,000 annually, and the arrangement was widely supported in the business community.
Sundance, America’s top film festival, brings big crowds to Park City in the last third of January each year, a time that had traditionally been a lull in the ski season. Business typically booms at stores, restaurants and nightclubs.
The 2006 festival generated $52.9 million in business in Park City and people visiting from outside of Utah spent $294.88 each day on lodging, meals, transportation and other goods and services, a study afterward found.
During City Hall’s annual budget talks in the spring, there was not widespread opposition when the government requested that businesses pay more in fees to fund the City Hall-Sundance deal.
Murphy has long envisioned Silver Star as an arts-influenced project, interesting enough to lure Sundance and house an artist-in-residence program that the developers plan to launch. He says the residency program might debut in 2008, when construction is completed.
"I don’t think it’s a conducive environment while construction is going on," Murphy says.
The construction crews working on the Silver Star condominiums are proceeding toward what Murphy hopes will be fall move-in dates in some of the units. The project, totaling 98 units, he predicts, will be finished in fall of 2007.
He reports that 95 percent of Silver Star’s units are sold and they have commanded between $600,000 for a two-bedroom condominium located off the ski runs to $2 million for a four-bedroom unit steps from the slopes.
Murphy says the ski lift that the developers installed passed a critical test about a month ago that allows it to operate in the upcoming season. Four ski runs, he says, have been constructed and will be open for the 2006-2007 season.
"I’m under no illusions," Murphy says, referring to Park City’s hot real-estate market. "Of why it went so well."