On Thursday, Park City's Planning Department tossed a wet blanket over the Kimball Art Center's latest expansion plans forcing the organizations's design committee back into a huddle to contemplate its next step.
The impasse is particularly worrisome in light of other uncertainties swirling around town (including the fate of Park City Mountain Resort and the future of the Treasure development on a hillside above Old Town) and raises concerns that the art center might pull up stakes and move off of Main Street, out of the reach of the historic district's rigid architectural guidelines.
That would be an enormous loss to the city's commercial core.
The Kimball Art Center plays a vital role in expanding the community's reputation beyond sports and recreation to include arts and culture. The center's galleries and studios complement the retail and dining opportunities on Main Street and offer important educational opportunities for local students. The art center also hosts a wildly successful summer art festival and, in the wintertime, serves as a busy hub for the annual Sundance Film Festival.
This week's rejection of the Kimball's plans raises serious questions about the city's convoluted review process and confusing directives to applicants. The art center voluntarily backed away from its first design iteration which would have required substantial code exceptions and resubmitted a second set of plans, they believed met the historic district guidelines.
We hope the Kimball Art Center board will appeal the planning department's decision and continue to work with the city toward a successful compromise.
Yes, City Hall must protect Park City's invaluable historic signature. But it must also guard against turning Old Town into a frozen replica of the past. Two years ago the art center launched an energetic effort to revamp and revitalize its footprint on Main Street. The campaign began with a design competition that drew interest from architects from all over the world and sparked the community's imagination.
It would be a shame to see that flame snuffed by an inflexible bureaucratic process.