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Next project: town plaza

Jay Hamburger, OF THE RECORD STAFF
Park City estimates it will cost between $2.5 million and $3 million to turn a stretch of Swede Alley into a town plaza. Mayor Dana Williams expects that the plaza will hold between 3,000 and 4,000 people for events like concerts. Grayson West/Park Record

Construction crews have made a lot of noise on Swede Alley since last spring building a new parking garage.

Some day, perhaps as early as next year, different sounds will emanate from Swede Alley, now a showcase for the Old Town transit center, parking spots and Dumpsters.

City Hall, which planned to open the new garage on Friday, still intends to build a town plaza on Swede Alley, a spot that the supporters envision becoming a place for people spend an afternoon and a hotspot for concerts.

The garage and the plaza have been seen as sister projects and the Park City Council has already earmarked money to build the plaza, deciding that a revamping of Swede Alley with the two projects was necessary to keep Main Street vibrant.

The garage, though, was deemed more important and was built first. The garage was needed to ensure enough parking spaces are available when the government reclaims spots on Swede Alley to build the plaza.

"We had our focus all on that over the last year," Colin Hilton, who directs City Hall’s capital projects, said about the $5.75 million garage, which holds 305 cars.

He said, with the garage ready, officials can begin planning for the plaza. Hilton expects that the government will spend the rest of 2006 holding public meetings regarding the plaza and designing the space. He said he wants the design to be nearly complete by December.

Hilton said he hopes that crews start building the plaza in the spring or summer of 2007. He said, at the earliest, the plaza will debut in the fall of 2007. The price tag is expected to be between $2.5 million and $3 million.

"Yes it’s planned, but not in any great detail," he said.

Hilton said he is unsure when City Hall would file the necessary applications for the plaza at the Planning Department but said that could occur during the first quarter of 2007.

The plaza is seen a spot that would be used in a variety of ways but its programming is not decided. It seems that the government wants to provide a space for concerts and an area for people to gather for smaller events. It also is expected to be a spot for people to take lunch breaks or lounge about.

The backers say that, currently, there is not such a space in the vicinity of Main Street, with City Park and the Park City Library and Education Center field a few blocks to the north.

They also say that creating a concert spot on Swede Alley would make it easier to hold performances downtown. Bigger concerts, those attracting up to a few thousand people, require City Hall to shut off lower Main Street to vehicles and build a temporary stage at the northern end of the street.

During the annual Sundance Film Festival, for instance, the festival organizers stage a concert on lower Main Street and, in the past, the stretch of the street has been used for concerts during the now-defunct America’s Opening ski races.

"That’s something I think is significant for us because it gives us a venue here," said Ken Davis, who leads the Main Street Business Alliance.

He sees a plaza as being a place for the yearly Park City Arts Festival and a farmers market.

"Picture the arts festival with a nice new plaza," he said.

The city has ideas about the plaza but the details of the project are not decided. However, it appears that the plaza design will pivot on a deal between City Hall and the U.S. Postal Service.

The Main Street post office sits on land that is crucial to the design of the plaza, Hilton acknowledges.

Park City officials want the post office site to create a prominent link between Main Street and Swede Alley. Now, there are a few corridors between Main Street and Swede Alley but none of them are wide and some of them are streets without sidewalks.

Hilton said City Hall prefers that the post office remain in its location, 450 Main St., but it be condensed from its current size. He said the post office could "go retro" and turn the facility into a storefront rather than the full building it is now. That, he said, fits with the post office’s history on Main Street.

"Our feeling is let’s do a bit of historic rehabilitation of the original post office," he said.

A Salt Lake City Postal Service staffer in charge of real estate did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Mayor Dana Williams, a longtime supporter of the plaza, said he wants it to become a "community piazza."

"It furthers the overall idea of Swede Alley, which was increased parking and having an area to gather downtown," Williams said.

He anticipates it will have space for between 3,000 and 4,000 people for big concerts but he does not want the plaza to compete with other performance spots like the Eccles Center and Deer Valley.

"It will be much easier and less expensive to put on events without having to block the street off to do it," Williams said.


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