The proposed design for the Kimball Art Center’s planned expansion has drawn a range of opinions this spring. City Hall has received hundreds of
The proposed design for the Kimball Art Center's planned expansion has drawn a range of opinions this spring. City Hall has received hundreds of comments about the project in recent weeks. Most of the emails are in support of the design. Courtesy of the Kimball Art Center

To Von Whitby, the proposed expansion of the Kimball Art Center would be iconic, something that would be a "giant step for a small town . . . "

"The Kimball Art Center design, in its way is an Eiffel Tower or the glass Pyramid at the Louvre. The great statement the design makes is one of sophistication, forward thinking and risk taking all in the pursuit of art, culture and diversity," Whitby said in a March 20 email to the Park City Planning Department. "I strongly urge you to embrace this giant step for a small town and make a statement that in years to come will, I believe, become in its own way an icon for all who see it."

But David Teasley sees the idea differently. He is one of the people who does not support the expansion designs.

"The images of the proposed Kimball Art Center design, if accurate show a structure that has no place in Park City. I support the Kimball, but not this design. It looks like LA. If folks around here want LA, then they should move there. Don't change the character of Old Town," Teasley wrote in an email to the Planning Department, also on March 20.

The two messages were among the 320 email comments City Hall received in recent weeks. Officials released the emails to The Park Record in response to a request under state open records laws.

The emails show passion from the supporters of the Kimball Art Center expansion as well as the critics. They cover a broad range of topics and come from people who live across the community. Many of the supporters argue that the expansion will fit in Old Town even with its modern design. They say it will provide a boost to Park City's arts community. The other side, though, contends that the expansion will look out of place on a historic streetscape like Main Street.

There were far more emails in support of the expansion. The supporters' emails outnumbered those from the critics by a nearly four-to-one margin. Upward of 245 of the messages appeared to be in clear support while approximately 67 were in clear opposition. It was difficult to decipher support or opposition in a few of the messages. Some of the critics' messages praised the Kimball Art Center's role in the community and the idea of an expansion. The proposed design, however, is problematic, they said.

The Kimball Art Center expansion proposal -- both the current blueprints and an earlier concept -- has become one of the battlegrounds in Old Town. There have been few development ideas along Main Street or in the surrounding neighborhood in recent years that have spurred such a division.

The design comes from a renowned Danish architect, and the Kimball Art Center sees the expansion as something that will work well alongside the not-for-profit organization's historic building. The expansion would be built at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue, one of the highest-profile locations in the Park City area.

The Kimball Art Center' expansion idea calls for a 15,000-square-foot concrete addition ranging in height from 32 feet tall to 46 feet tall. It would be connected to the existing building on both stories. It would double the Kimball Art Center's space. The new square footage would include room for exhibitions and programs. Kimball Art Center officials say an addition to a historic building typically does not emulate the original one.

The letters were released as City Hall continues to consider the idea. Planning Department staffers recently received testimony covering similar topics to those brought up in the messages. The late-March input session was the only opportunity for someone to provide verbal opinions in a formal City Hall setting.

The Kimball Art Center needs two approvals from the Planning Department to proceed with the expansion as envisioned. One of the approvals involves the design while the other one deals with height. The decisions could be made as early as late spring.

Excerpts from a sampling of the messages include:

Supporters

  • "I just saw the new rendering of the proposed new building for the Kimball Art Center. It is beautiful in it's simplicity. It is so refreshing to see a transgression towards progressive design here in Park City," Julie Chahine

  • "This is a building that we can be proud of as a community and will surely be an architectural gem that will be admired and discussed by many generations to come," Jenny Samuelson

  • "It is a best chance at turning what is now a not particularly attractive building into one that will be iconic and make a real statement to people, that Park City not only knows how to care for its past heritage but also knows how to move into the future. Rome, Paris and New York have managed to make new, modern buildings work well with older architecture. Park City can do the same," Jack Koson

  • "The Kimball project has the chance to reinvigorate both the architecture of Old Town as well as the street scene. This . . . will be a must-see building for both residents and visitors," Michele Morris

    Critics

  • "Does not fit in. Not similar to any other building round. Looks like space age building. Way (too) modern," Beth Kapp

  • "This proposal is too far off the mark, and the building is downright ugly. The proposal goes well in Denmark with modern straight lines, but not in our historic district. (It) would be one big sore thumb. Once something like this is approved, it opens the door for other strange ultra modern structures," Ralph and Jean Hottinger

  • "The problem I have with the current plans is that they do not enhance Main Street but will create another eyesore, just like 333 Main Street. The building will overpower the street and buildings and businesses surrounding it. It's important we keep the charm of Historic Main Street alive, not turn it into an architectural nightmare," Chris Meyer. She was one of the critics who also indicated she is not opposed to the idea of remodeling the Kimball Art Center with a different design.