Former official packs a plan for Park City’s Main Street
The Historic Park City Alliance has brought in a familiar face to help navigate the future of Main Street.
The organization, which serves as an advocate for businesses in Park City’s historic district, recently announced the hiring of Michael Barille as its executive director. Barille served as Summit County’s planning director for several years in the 2000s and has since been involved in a number of projects in the private sector, including as a consultant to former Park City Mountain Resort owner Powdr Corporation.
Barille, who succeeds Alison Kuhlow, said he’s eager to delve into the issues.
“Our downtown area is an important cog in our economy,” he said. “There are a lot of longtime locals who operate businesses down there, and I think we’re very loyal to them as a community. I want to help them be successful.”
Barille joins the Historic Park City Alliance at a time of uncertainty on Main Street. City officials and business leaders are confronting a number of issues affecting merchants, including the availability of parking, traffic, and the number of storefront vacancies.
Among the most pressing issues, though, is a concern that national chain stores will eventually push out local businesses. As the cost of rental space on Main Street increases, small merchants worry that larger companies can afford to pay prices they can’t. Already, some longtime stores have been forced to fold.
Barille shares their anxiety but said solving issues such as the tenant mix is a delicate balance, like most matters involving the health of downtown. There is a series of pros and cons to weigh, with the ultimate goal of preserving the sense of history and uniqueness on Main Street.
“I think (chain stores) can be both a threat and an asset,” he said. “When you have well-respected brands that fit a mountain lifestyle, they’re likely to act as an anchor that will draw more people and help support the mom-and-pops, as well. If it gets to the point where they’re taking up so much of the rentable space, or rents get so high that it becomes impossible to compete, then it tilts the pendulum the other way.”
Barille has experience finding the solutions to problems like that, he said. After serving as the county’s planning director, he transitioned to the private sector, where he continues to work in project management. He is currently a partner in the project design firm PlanWorks Design. Notably, the firm is working on the Woodward Park City action-sports facility development at Gorgoza Park for Powdr Corporation.
“It’s been 16 years here, and another seven or eight years in Ohio before I moved here, of working on some subset of community issues and the intersection of community and government,” Barille said. “It really feels like community-building to me.”
Sandra Morrison, president of the Historic Park City Alliance, said in a press release that the organization tapped Barille because his experience in the public and private sectors of community development is valuable.
“Barille’s experience, involvement in the community, and existing relationships combined with his background in planning align closely with the organization’s goals,” said she said. “The Board of Directors feels Barille is ideally suited to lead the organization forward.”
Barille added that his familiarity with how city and county government works, and his relationships with local officials, will help him quickly adjust to his new role. He said he wants to contribute to the discussions of issues in a meaningful way as soon as possible.
“There’s 15 years of relationships,” he said. “I’ve sat across the table from people in lots of different capacities, sometimes representing a client with competing interests and sometimes working directly with them, hand-in-hand, to try to solve issues. I think a lot of it is just having an open dialogue.”
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.