Kimball Art Center design decried by newly formed opposition group
Critics of the design of the proposed expansion of the Kimball Art Center have formed a group in opposition to the project, saying they have rallied more than 120 people over the last few weeks.
The group is called Preserve Historic Main Street. Jim Tedford, a Sun Peak resident, leads the organization and said he founded it with several friends after the Kimball Art Center unveiled the expansion design.
Tedford appeared in front of the Park City Planning Commission Wednesday night introducing the group to the panel. Tedford and others with similar opinions spoke to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council on Thursday night. Williams mentioned that the Kimball Art Center has not filed an application yet for the expansion. There have been discussions at City Hall about procedural matters, though.
The opponents claim the project, as it is designed, would be out of place on Main Street, where many buildings date back a century and Park City leaders over the years have attempted to protect the historic look.
"It doesn’t fit on Main Street. All someone has to do is look up Main Street," Tedford said in an interview about the expansion proposal, calling it an "ultra-modern" design.
Tedford said the group, though, supports the overall mission of the not-for-profit art center. He also said Preserve Historic Main Street would support an expansion of the Kimball Art Center that the group deems more suitable for the location.
He said the Kimball Art Center proposal spurred the formation of the group. It is made of people from Park City and the Snyderville Basin. Preserve Historic Main Street has launched a petition drive.
Williams during a late-August City Council meeting said he had heard privately from critics of the design of the expansion. He said then the people he had spoken to were not willing to make public statements since some of the supporters of the Kimball Art Center hold powerful positions in the community.
An architectural firm called Bjarke Ingels Group, with offices in Copenhagen, Denmark, and New York City, was hired to design the expansion. The firm’s proposal would add approximately 30,000 square feet to the Kimball Art Center. The design reaches a height of 80 feet and uses stacked railroad trestles as a primary architectural feature.
During the late-August City Council meeting, the elected officials took input from 13 people, many of whom spoke in support of the design. The testimony, though, showed an emerging split in the community. Tedford was one of the people who spoke at the meeting.
The organization says the expansion will provide more space for its programs and shift the main entry from the Heber Avenue-Park Avenue intersection to the Main Street side of the property.
In an electronic newsletter the Kimball Art Center published after the late-August City Council meeting, Robin Marrouche, the executive director, said the organization welcomes opinions about the expansion proposal. She said people may contact her or leave a statement anonymously, if they wish, on cards at the art center. The electronic newsletter said the Kimball Art Center will schedule town hall-style meetings soon to gather more input.
Marrouche said in an interview she respects the opposition group and she’s "really happy he’s gotten organized." She said she wants to meet with Tedford shortly.
"Their input helps broaden the conversation," Marrouche said, calling the group "very passionate about Main Street."
Marrouche said the opinions she has heard have been overwhelmingly in support of the expansion design. The Kimball Art Center team has modified the design in response to the early round of input, though, she said. The primary change has been adding a strip of windows at the street level of the Main Street-facing side of the tower of trestles and a strip of windows on the tower’s north side.
The Kimball Art Center indicated early on there could be changes to the design based on input from Park City leaders and the wider community.
The City Council chambers on Thursday night were packed with opponents on a night when the expansion was not on the agenda. Ten people spoke to the elected officials. Some of the comments included that the tower of trestles will appear to be a skyscraper, the project could set a precedent and that changes to historic properties should complement the existing structure. There was a suggestion that the Kimball Art Center fly balloons to illustrate the height of the proposed expansion, something that developers sometimes are asked to do as well.
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