A ‘triumph,’ old houses craned into place
Wilma Larremore remembers the boy who lived in one of the houses was a classmate. And the girl who lived there then was Larremore’s younger sister’s best friend.
It is Thursday morning and a construction crew, City Hall officials and onlookers gather near the 800 block of Park Avenue to watch developers lift two old houses onto huge cranes, move them across Park Avenue and set them down on land where they will be part of a new development.
For Larremore, who is 79 years old and has lived in a house at 733 Woodside Ave. for 57 years, the scene is fascinating. She watches with interest as the crane operator starts the work. The family that lived there in the 1940s had six kids and Larremore often visited them in the house, in a time before the city changed from a silver-mining town to a ski resort.
"It’s kind of exciting to think they would actually lift it up and move it and put it back," Larremore says as she watches the crews.
The work is part of developer David Belz’s Parkwood Place, one of the largest residential projects under construction in Old Town. It occupies a sought-after location at the Town Lift and stretches several hundred feet north from 8th Street. The historic Kimball Boardinghouse, which was rundown but revered by Park City’s history lovers, was dismantled at the site and parts of the walls will be used as the developers build one of the new houses.
The crews have been excavating a garage and preparing to build or rebuild eight houses, including the two that are craned into place on Thursday.
"I really felt it was a real triumph. It was just a thousand moves, one after another," says Jeffrey Kuhn, who represents Belz.
Kuhn says the two houses — 811 Park Ave. and 815 Park Ave. — will be refurbished. Both are sold. He expects they will be put onto foundations within six weeks. Then, the rest of the renovation will start.
Thursday’s move takes about five hours. The houses are loaded onto flatbed trucks and slowly driven up Park Avenue from where they had been stored, across the street and slightly north of Belz’s project. Traffic is stopped and the crew helps the driver navigate the short route.
At 11 a.m., a truck stops. One of the houses is too tall to fit under an overhead wire. Fifteen minutes later, a worker climbs onto a ladder and pushes the wire over the house, allowing the truck driver to continue the creeping procession up the street.
Twenty minutes later, the house is attached to a crane specially outfitted for the lifting. The crane moves the house into place, slowly positions the building above where it will sit and lowers the house onto a temporary wooden base.
The procedure is repeated for the other one. The Park City Building Department reports it received no complaints. Traffic on Park Avenue and on streets immediately surrounding the route, however, appears backed up as the houses are moved.
Small crowds gather to watch from the sidewalk, the Town Bridge and nearby streets. Developers in Old Town sometimes raise historic houses to build a foundation but it is rare that houses are moved from their land, stored elsewhere and then moved back, as is the case with the Belz project.
Hal Compton, an expert in Park City’s history, watches from the Town Bridge, perched above Park Avenue as the houses are moved. He recalls the political battles before City Hall approved Parkwood Place.
Then, there was a chance Belz would bulldoze the Kimball Boardinghouse, a scenario that disappointed the preservation community. Negotiations kept it up and the developer agreed to incorporate part of it into a new house. Kuhn estimates it will be another year before the developer builds that house.
"It’s a lot better than demolishing the historic building, and this is pretty intact," Compton says. "This, I guess, you call it a compromise."
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