Museum plan barely passes | ParkRecord.com

Museum plan barely passes

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The people who spoke Wednesday night were unanimous in their adoration of the Park City Museum.

The city’s Planning Commission was not.

Museum officials escaped the panel, though, with a tight, 3-2 approval of their plans to refurbish and expand the depository of much of Park City’s colorful history, from a silver-mining camp to a swanky mountain resort.

The expansion is not controversial with regular Parkites and museum boosters have heralded the plans as a boon for history lovers and for Main Street, where it occupies a high-profile location midway up the street.

The Planning Commissioners haggled over the designs, such as how the building will look from Swede Alley, not whether the museum should be expanded. Jim Barth, Julia Pettit and Mark Sletten were in the majority. Evan Russack and Charlie Wintzer cast the ‘Nay’ votes. Museum officials continue to negotiate with City Hall about the designs and those decisions could be delayed until the end of June.

"This is an important project for the whole community. I was very pleased with the amount of support," Sandra Morrison, who directs the museum, says.

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Morrison and other museum leaders want to add 4,600 square feet to the 8,300 already there. The new space would face Swede Alley.

Morrison has long said the new space would allow the museum to put on display lots of artifacts that are now mothballed or on display elsewhere, including a fire engine from 1920s Park City that is in a museum in Tooele.

Artist designs show the fire engine parked inside a Main Street-facing window at the bottom of the tower that houses the 10 o’clock Whistle. They show a big display case for the fire engine, a spot where people could try to operate a mine drill and a three-story re-creation of a mine.

People, mostly with ties to the museum or Main Street merchants, lauded the plans at a series of meetings. There was little interest from regular Parkites. The people with links to the museum say the bigger facility will make it better and the merchants hope the museum will draw more people to the street.

"It’s just incredible what went on in this town," Ken Davis, a Main Street leader, told the Planning Commission.

Testimony on Wednesday night touched on the museum’s ability to put on display many more artifacts if the expansion is done and that Park City’s history sets it apart from other mountain resorts.

Silver miners were the first Parkites and the industry dominated the economy for a century, before the price of silver dropped precipitously. The mining ceased but skiing started, providing the city with another boom era and bringing about half of the events of the 2002 Winter Olympics to the area.

The Park City Council on Thursday considered whether to review the plans but did not formally decide to do so. The request might occur at an upcoming City Council meeting. The elected officials rarely exercise their authority to review decisions by lower panels.

Morrison says she hopes to break ground on the expansion in late 2007. She expects the work will last 18 months. It is projected to cost $8.9 million and the museum has raised $6.1 million. Morrison says she hopes to secure the rest of the money by Dec. 1.

"This isn’t a ‘Build It and They Will Come’ project. Everybody’s already here," Morrison says, adding, "There is more to our history than just skiing."