Park City once again must decide if it will trade a unique gift of time for something only proffered as maybe more valuable the proposed Kimball Art Center addition. That decision is implied by action on pending revisions to the city's Land Management Code.
Found in the city planning commission's annual code review are suggestions that revisions occur which would, interestingly, accommodate what the KAC board proposes for a towering attachment to its gallery at Heber and Park avenues. Because in several aspects as it would loom over Main Street the design violates current historic district zoning provisions, the proposed addition naturally provokes community distress.
When economic conditions abruptly started transitioning with this country's Great Depression just short of 100 years ago Park City's decline accelerated, the mining industry moving out from under the town's previously prosperous foundation. Left behind, however, was a slumbering future opportunity possible valuable reuse of a period-piece commercial district, derelict, but substantially preserved.
Discovery that the surrounding hills and mountains could host world-class ski resorts occurred with the simultaneous dawning that a "downtown" for providing the necessary resort-required restaurants, sporting-goods businesses, artwork galleries and apres-ski entertainment already existed.
It was an obvious double-barreled advantage for economic recovery. Historic revival, then, eventually inspired the community's best interests and deliberate emphasis.
Other Western ski Meccas cannot equal what has been achieved. Aspen, although a mining town, was really never abandoned, and its ski industry renewed the place starting early post-World War II, with substantial new construction dating from then. Sun Valley, although also once a mining platform, was actually re-created as a year-round recreation center and consequently deliberately, materially updated. The Squaw Valley area? It has nothing comparable to Park City's setting. "Historic" is surely the acknowledged emblem for Park City's emergent new vision.
The extraordinary results are marketed by Summit County ski resorts and related tourism advertisements that expressly feature Park City. Visitors from surrounding Utah areas, beyond this region and from other, distant countries regularly peruse historic Main Street, drawn to its vivid representation of another, former era, in the process benefiting its commerce, to the tune of $105 million in 2011 sales alone.
Why would municipal officials, stewards for protecting this incomparable asset, consider dismantling it by enabling the development urge to build and renovate in ways that inflict nonconforming characteristics sizes, shapes, materials gradually but ultimately fostering something unrecognizable as authentically historic? Why would Park City want to squander an enviable inheritance the past has bequeathed it for a promise that an unforeseeable future cannot guarantee? Indeed, specifically why?
Harry E. Fuller Jr. is a nine-year Park City resident who previously lived in Salt Lake City for 41 years. He started visiting Park City when it verged on becoming a ghost town and has watched it recover, rebuild and regain its prosperity through planning and developer consideration that has acknowledged and honored the town's past.