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Museum blueprints lauded

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Council lauded praise on the team drawing up blueprints to expand the Park City Museum, agreeing to allow the museum to pursue formalized talks with City Hall about the work.

During a Thursday night meeting, the City Council unanimously gave museum officials the go-ahead to proceed with the some of the applications needed before the expansion could start. The museum, 528 Main St., resides in a City Hall-owned building, giving the local government some sway as museum leadership contemplates the expansion plans.

The Thursday action, though, does not represent an approval of the blueprints and was procedural in nature. The team from the museum needed permission from the City Council to proceed.

Now the museum is required to seek a series of City Hall approvals. More detailed discussions are expected before the OKs are granted. According to a report submitted to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council this week, the museum needs to win three approvals during the planning stages, including a determination that the design meets strict Old Town guidelines. During those discussions, officials will tediously consider whether the plans are appropriate.

Museum lovers, some wearing buttons showing their support, crowded the Thursday meeting to tell the elected officials the plans are exceptional. There was not opposition during the meeting. Williams and the City Council indicated they preferred the blueprints shown on Thursday compared to earlier versions.

The museum team talked about how the revised designs better fits in a historic building like the one where the museum is located. The building once housed Park City’s municipal offices and a jail.

The museum leaders acknowledged City Hall officials did not welcome the previous designs and Williams told the audience the earlier plans left him "somewhat dumbstruck" and the newer ones are "infinitely better."

The team’s discussion was detailed in nature, such as the type of bricks that could be used in the work and how the heights could reflect those in the past. There seemed to be little interest from people without ties to the museum and it appeared the museum mobilized its backers to attend the meeting.

The City Councilors did not provide lots of detailed comments but said they liked the revised plans.

The museum previously won a 99-year lease from City Hall, allowing the leaders to pursue the ambitious expansion. Before the long-term lease was approved, in 2003, the museum had anticipated construction could start as early as fall 2005 and the reopening could have been a year afterward.

This January, though, City Councilors remained worried about the designs, prompting the Thursday talk about the revised plans. Minutes from the January meeting show City Councilors concerned about the previous plans resembling a "warehouse," surprised with "the boxy design" and saying "the charm of the (building) is being lost in exchange for square footage."

The expansion is seen as a way to put more of the permanent collection on display and remain competitive. The museum tells Park City’s colorful history, describing through narratives and exhibits how the city became a glitzy mountain resort from its early days as a silver-mining outpost.

Some of its popular artifacts are the so-called skier-subway, which took skiers underground on their way to the slopes, and an 1870s stagecoach used to travel between Park City and Salt Lake City.

The museum plan adds to what is a significant private-sector investment in Main Street, which, with other spots in the area, is enjoying a booming economy as Park City has emerged as one of America’s top skiing destinations.

Monty Coates, a Main Street merchant, told the City Council he envisions the museum expansion as the "cornerstone for the street."


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