Developer buys Main Street Mall | ParkRecord.com

Developer buys Main Street Mall

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A developer in November bought the Main Street Mall with the intention of turning one of Main Street’s largest buildings into an exclusive retail and residential project, more evidence that speculators see Park City’s best-known shopping, dining and entertainment strip as a worthwhile investment.

Developers had long coveted the mall, 333 Main St., but the Wong family, which controlled the building for years, did not finalize an agreement until the current deal, with a firm known as Park City 333 Main Development, was completed. Terms were not made public, and Russell Wong, who represents his family, declines to comment about the sale.

The new owners, led by the developer who is building the St. Regis in Deer Crest, now must pursue approvals from City Hall to renovate the hulking, rectangular-shaped building, which has frequently been criticized for disrupting the historic look of Main Street. The government will conceivably be asked to allow the owners to redo the upper floors into residences and renovate the street-level floor for stores.

"It has potential, but the building has its idiosyncrasies," says Stan Castleton, who manages the firm that bought the mall and is the chief of DDRM Companies, the St. Regis developer.

Castleton acknowledges his side is considering options to redo the mall, but he has not completed the work required before formal talks start with City Hall. He says a scenario of building condominiums upstairs and putting in retailers off the sidewalk is possible.

Past ideas for renovating the mall have had similar approaches. Condominium sales on the upstairs floors would finance the renovation and allow the owners to offer the less lucrative commercial space on the Main Street level, the theory holds. In 2001, City Hall received blueprints to refurbish the mall with 13 residential units, and the outside would have been redone.

Recommended Stories For You

"It just takes, I guess, the right level of creativity to bring the right value out," Castleton says.

He expects the mall will likely not be exclusively commercial once the renovation is completed. The mall now provides a refuge from Main Street’s higher-priced leases, and artists have especially been attracted to the building. Castleton says the mall tenants will be forced out by spring 2009, depending on when the developers receive the approvals from City Hall needed for the work.

The local government will carefully consider how the building will look once the renovation is done. City officials tightly regulate building designs on Main Street, and the city’s influential preservation community is expected to monitor the talks.

Meanwhile, officials could also spend time debating the plan’s effects on neighbors on upper Park Avenue and discussing how construction crews will operate on the tightly packed street.

The mall has been maligned for much of the last decade, with critics saying its contemporary design does not fit with Main Street’s historic feel. When it was built, City Hall was pleased with the designs, but they were soon criticized.

As Park City’s tourism-heavy economy has boomed in the post-Winter Olympic era, developers have invested heavily along Main Street. The biggest project is the Sky Lodge, and there are plans to redevelop the Claimjumper building and the building that once housed the Imperial Hotel, among other ideas on the street.

Main Street, even with competition from outlying areas like Redstone and the North of Main district, continues to enjoy big business. Crowds descend on the street during the ski season, and summertime customers are increasing.

Castleton pledges a redone mall will be designed better than it is now, and it will more resemble the smaller historic buildings nearby. City Hall-hired consultants identified the mall as one of several buildings on Main Street that were out of place in a historic district.

"It will look like it belongs on Main Street rather than (what) it looks like now," he says. "It will be more within the historic flavor of Main Street, for sure."

Mall once pegged at $12.4 million

The sides involved in the recent sale of the Main Street Mall decline to disclose the price tag, but court papers have shown the building once was pegged at $12.4 million.

That price had been negotiated in 2005, but it involved a different buyer.

A lawsuit filed in Third District Court at Silver Summit had described the $12.4 million deal, and the court case dwelled on long-term tenant leases. At the time, real estate insiders indicated it was the priciest deal they were aware of on Main Street.

They said there had been some $2 million and $3 million sales of commercial buildings on Main Street, but the $12.4 million was likely a record.