New owners of Park City Tech Center plan 2,500-resident mixed-use neighborhood at Kimball Junction
The tech industry in Utah has been booming, growing faster than almost anywhere else in the country and supporting more than one-sixth of the state’s gross domestic product.
But when people refer to the Silicon Slopes, they’re usually talking about tech firms on the Wasatch Front, where the majority of growth has been concentrated.
A decade ago, Summit County leaders tried to catch on to the growing trend by approving a tech center on the west side of Kimball Junction, but it never took hold.
In the intervening years, only about 90,000 square feet has been developed on the 51-acre site, with most suggested projects failing to meet the standards put forward in a 2008 development agreement.
Two years ago, another firm decided to try its hand developing the site, buying from the Boyer Company the land commonly known as the Park City Tech Center near the Skullcandy headquarters south of Walmart and west of S.R. 224.
Dakota Pacific Real Estate recently submitted its plan for what it wants to build there, and it is ambitious.
The proposed Olympic View development covers 2 million square feet of development, including 1,135 residential units, commercial space, retail, offices and possibly hotels. Renderings show an underground bus depot, a pedestrian bridge over S.R. 224 and a gondola that travels over tree-lined shopping plazas and walkways to connect to the Utah Olympic Park or beyond.
Dakota Pacific director of development Jeff Gochnour called the plan aspirational, and noted the company wouldn’t be able to pay for things like the gondola or transportation hub by itself.
“It’s going to require a regional solution,” Gochnour said of the transportation issue. “This is an opportunity to really take advantage of this site. It’s in an extraordinary location for transit and so let’s look at the big picture (of) what is possible, not just what a single developer could do by themselves.”
To get there, the developers are going to have to meet with the county to revisit the 2008 development agreement that places restrictions on what kind of growth is allowed there.
The county is not necessarily keen to see development at an already-congested gateway to Park City. Community Development Director Pat Putt said people who were involved in negotiating the 2008 development agreement told him some of the major considerations were to prevent sprawl and to cluster development near existing sites to keep the hillsides and other open spaces pristine.
Though the envisioned tech hub never materialized, the deal can be seen as a success on those other counts, Putt said.
Reopening that agreement will likely yield requirements for more affordable housing, trails, parks and open spaces and transportation fixes.
Gochnour and Hooper Knowlton, a managing director at Dakota Pacific, described the Olympic View development as a complete change from the Tech Center, a functioning neighborhood with kids getting off yellow school buses and 2,500 or so residents able to walk to services like grocery stores, bars or restaurants. The traffic impacts of a mixed-use neighborhood like they envision are often less concentrated during peak times.
Knowlton said he’s been told the county would like to see the project come together sooner rather than later, and that it’s seen as a guidepost for future development.
The site is currently entitled for about 1.3 million square feet of development, meaning Olympic View will be requesting an increase of density. According to the county’s 2015 general plan, that would require an offsetting public benefit, which the Dakota Pacific executives said would be offered through affordable housing and transportation fixes.
All of the residential units are planned to be for-rent apartments, Gouchnour said, fitting a dire need in the county. A 2019 housing needs assessment found the county would have to create 231 affordable rental apartments annually to keep up with demand, and the building permit numbers are far below that.
The same report found that county businesses have increasingly had to rely on commuters for their workforce, and housing experts have said the lack of places for employees to live may have contributed to the failure of Summit County to attract as many tech businesses as officials had hoped.
A recent traffic analysis found that S.R. 224 will fail within the next five years without improvements, and would be serviceable until 2030 if it was augmented to seven lanes. The County Council has said the only answer is mass transit, and has looked at bus rapid transit as one possible solution.
The Dakota Pacific executives said that traffic studies have shown their proposal, even with increased density, would lower traffic impacts compared to a build out of the tech park under its current entitlements. The expectation was that office employees would generally come and go all at the same time, further snarling rush-hour traffic.
The proposed on-site underground bus depot would likely help in the effort, as well. Knowlton said the project would bring local stakeholders together to find a solution, including the Utah Olympic Park, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Transit Authority, Park City, Summit County and business owners on the east side of Kimball Junction. He maintained, however, that Dakota Pacific could not bankroll the effort on its own.
Dakota Pacific would act as master developers of the site, but would not sell off parcels of land for others to develop, they said.
“We view this as an opportunity to reshape the area,” Gouchnour said. “This is at the entrance to the greater Park City area and it’s an opportunity to make a statement to anybody that gets off on 224 and heads into Park City. … And we think we can make an impressive statement.”
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.