Main Street wants decorative lights | ParkRecord.com

Main Street wants decorative lights

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Main Street merchants at a Wednesday meeting, intrigued with an idea to put up decorative lights, overwhelmingly endorsed an idea to boost the amount they pay into a pot of money for the street in order to fund the lights.

The Wednesday vote, though, was an informal straw poll and was not binding. The people who voted represent fewer than half of the businesses in the Main Street core. But the straw poll shows that there appears to be a bloc of support on the street for the lights, which the supporters see as a way to attract more people to Main Street.

Main Street leaders took the straw poll during an annual meeting of the Historic Main Street Business Alliance at the Kimball Art Center. People representing a range of businesses attended, as did City Hall and tourism officials.

Main Street’s leadership wants to launch a program known as Holidelights with the lights later this year. Under the idea, the white lights would decorate buildings on Main Street and small portions of street close by.

Sandy Geldhof, who is the executive director of the business alliance, said the lights could be turned on between Thanksgiving and January. She described the possibility of nightly lighting celebrations and a festive dropping of a snowball. She said afterward she will talk to business owners about the idea.

Main Street is usually hopping with skier crowds in the period right around Christmas and New Year’s, but the merchants have long attempted to draw bigger crowds of holiday shoppers, with mixed success.

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The street, meanwhile, is facing increased competition from places like Redstone Towne Center at Kimball Junction and the up-and-coming North of Main district. Merchants on Main Street for years have pressed for City Hall support, saying the street is crucial to Park City’s tourism-heavy economy.

The business alliance has estimated the lights and installation would cost $258,675. There had been discussions about City Hall providing an interest-free loan and other funding to help start the lighting program, but the loan request was rejected.

It is unclear what financial support the local government might provide. That will be decided during the upcoming budget talks at City Hall, which are expected to be difficult as officials put together a spending plan during the recession.

The pot of money that the majority wanted increased to fund the lights is collected through what is known as a business improvement district, an entity that receives money from business licenses in the Main Street area.

The charge on business licenses is currently $156 annually. The money funds Geldhof’s position and other efforts to boost Main Street business. City Hall has not generated an estimated increase should the lights be paid for through the pot of money.

The Wednesday discussion followed shortly after the Park City Council decided against spending money to install a sound system on Main Street. The street’s leaders wanted to pipe music onto the street to create a more festive atmosphere and also have the speakers in place to be used in case of an emergency.