Former Park City mayor: ‘it will be a crying shame’ if arts district is scrapped
Leader involved in the early stages of project tapped to speak at roundtable
Jack Thomas, at the time the mayor of Park City, in the middle of 2017 gathered a small but influential group of figures from the Sundance Institute and the Kimball Art Center.
It was a day of smiles at the Marsac Building with the mayor and high-ranking officials from the two organizations announcing plans to develop an arts and culture district. City Hall would acquire land off Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard for nearly $20 million and then develop a district that would be co-anchored by the Kimball Art Center and the Utah offices of Sundance. Thomas at the event said it was a “miraculous moment” and a “perfect opportunity.”
Nearly four years later, and with City Hall having long since completed the purchase of the 5.25 acres from the Bonanza Park partnership, questions have persisted about the prospects of a development like the one envisioned at the time. The economic toll of the spread of the novel coronavirus further concentrated some of the worry in the community.
Thomas did not seek reelection to a second term and left office in early 2018 with the concept for the arts district intact. Much of the work on financing, the designs and the approval process was left to the succeeding administration of Mayor Andy Beerman. As Beerman and the Park City Council prepare to make crucial decisions about the arts district, officials tapped Thomas to be one of the panelists during a City Hall-hosted roundtable centered on the project that is scheduled on Monday. Beerman and City Councilor Max Doilney are also scheduled to appear. The event is slated to be held shortly before a planned March 31 City Council hearing about the district.
The land deal was seen as one of the accomplishments of the Thomas administration. The City Hall acquisition ended long-running, difficult talks about a development proposal forwarded by the previous owner. A district like the one outlined by Thomas was considered to be a better option for the land, something that would advance the community as an arts destination and help diversify the Park City economy from one that is so reliant on the ski industry.
The concept at this point calls for buildings for the Kimball Art Center and Sundance, workforce or otherwise restricted housing and transportation infrastructure. The City Hall portion of the project is estimated at $88.4 million. The number does not include the $19.5 million acquisition price. The municipal government would recoup some of the costs through the sale of land to Sundance and the Kimball Art Center as well as collecting rent on the residences to offset the maintenance and operations costs.
In an interview as he readied for the roundtable on Monday, Thomas said he continues to support the project. The community “in the long run will be happy” if the project is developed, he said. Thomas said an arts and culture district would rejuvenate the area of the land, which has for decades been considered to be an underperforming section of Park City.
“I think it was a commitment to do it. We have parties involved in the process,” he said, referring to the Kimball Art Center and Sundance.
He called the concept of an arts district a “transformational approach” to the planning process, describing the well-situated location of the land and the possibility of working with a clean slate since the existing buildings were to be razed. The demolitions are underway as the talks continue about the district.
Thomas acknowledged the project involves a “tremendous amount of money” and said he is not as informed about the current municipal financial circumstances as he was when the acquisition was negotiated during his administration. He urged City Hall to make prudent and responsible financial decisions regarding the project as he expressed his backing for the development to move forward.
“If we don’t, it will be a crying shame. It will be a lost opportunity,” he said regarding pursuing the project, adding about the land City Hall acquired, “Do you let it go to waste?”
The roundtable is scheduled on Monday from 6 p.m. until 7:15 p.m. It will be held virtually at: facebook.com/parkcitygovt and us02web.zoom.us/j/89241997571. More information is available on the City Hall website, parkcity.org. The direct link is: parkcity.org/Home/Components/News/News/38718/23.
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