Deer Valley wins praise from former Park City mayor for Snow Park development concept |

Deer Valley wins praise from former Park City mayor for Snow Park development concept

Jack Thomas, an architect, sees the designs as a ‘culmination’ of decades of work

Jack Thomas, a former mayor of Park City, saw himself as leading the community with a thoughtful approach to governance.

An architect who served as a member of the Park City Planning Commission before ascending to the community’s top political post, Thomas would pore over issues in front of City Hall before decisions were made.

Thomas in the nearly four years since he retired from the mayor’s office has only occasionally publicly involved himself in matters under consideration at City Hall. He appeared at a recent meeting of the Planning Commission, though, as the panel remains in the early stages of talks about what is ultimately expected to be a major development proposal at Snow Park in lower Deer Valley.

In his comments to the Planning Commission, Thomas addressed the concept of development at the location rather than providing a detailed opinion of a project. His appearance was notable nonetheless with his standing as an architect, an ex-mayor, a former member of the Planning Commission and someone who has commanded respect for years.

Thomas essentially praised the overarching concept at Snow Park but cautioned the review will likely be extensive. There was only limited progress made at the recent meeting, held virtually as Park City continues to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the Planning Commission prepares for more comprehensive talks later.

“It really takes a lot of time to comprehend a plan that is this significant,” Thomas said.

The project is envisioned as a reimagined Snow Park base area. A hotel, residences, retailers, dining locations and entertainment space are included. Large underground garages would be built to replace the parking spaces in the lots, which would be lost to the development. A transit hub is also planned.

There are development rights attached to the land dating to the 1970s, when leaders voted in favor of an overall approval encompassing much of what was built as Deer Valley. The rights attached to the lots outside Snow Park are seen as especially important based on the amount of potential development and the high-profile location at the lower base of the resort. The Planning Commission in its review will consider the details of a proposed project rather than whether development at the location should be allowed at all.

Deer Valley, having secured the rights decades ago, had the opportunity to spend significant time crafting a concept for Snow Park. There had been chatter over the years that the resort was poised to move forward with a development proposal at Snow Park, but the current talks between Deer Valley and the Planning Commission signal the likelihood of an approaching project.

In his recent appearance before the Planning Commission, Thomas framed the concept of a Snow Park development in terms of the original approval in the 1970s and the work that followed.

“What we’re seeing here is a culmination of thinking on this project that has happened, not for a few years, not even a few decades, this is a culmination of thought that has happened over decades and decades,” Thomas said.

He told the Planning Commission there is a tendency to quickly critique a project. In the case of Snow Park, he said, “we need to be slow and contemplative, make sure we understand what they’re doing.”

“As long as it’s taken to create these concepts, I think we deserve to give it the grace of our contemplative thought ourselves. … This is not just crack-an-egg architecture. And it’s not reactionary design,” Thomas said.

Thomas said it will “take time to really unfold all these details.” He added praise for Deer Valley as it readies for what will likely be more difficult talks with the Planning Commission than the initial ones.

“We’ve got a resort here that’s really willing to listen to us and support the underlying values of the community,” Thomas said.

Thomas in his architectural practice has designed houses in Deer Valley, Empire Pass and the wider Park City community. He has no involvement in the project at Snow Park and no involvement is anticipated.

In an interview after his recent remarks to the Planning Commission, Thomas said he has watched Deer Valley development work for years, saying the resort appears to embrace what he describes as broader thinking. He acknowledged the project would be “massive,” though.

“I think they’ve considered very carefully how the project is broken up, how there are spaces between the buildings,” he said. “There’s not just walls of development.”

He supports the idea of incorporating a significant mass transit component into the project, praises an architectural concept that would put the development in “its moment of time” and says the designs allow for views of the mountains beyond the planned buildings.

“It’s important that it look like it belongs in the community,” Thomas said, describing the early talks between the Planning Commission and Deer Valley as a “very, very good start.”

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