Main Street project, a ‘travesty’ to some, draws more criticism |

Main Street project, a ‘travesty’ to some, draws more criticism

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

There will not be an opportunity to window shop at a building that is under construction toward the southern end of the commercial stretch of Main Street.

And the lack of storefronts planned in the project at 205 Main St. drew concerns recently at City Hall. Mayor Jack Thomas, the Park City Council, the developers and Main Street figures discussed the situation on Thursday night before the elected officials decided to hold more talks later.

The project at 205 Main St., located just downhill from Grappa Italian Restaurant, is part of a construction boom along the street. The ground floor of the project, which will be at the street level, consists of a parking garage that will be accessible through a garage door at the southern end of the building. There will be six residential units on the upstairs floors.

Park City officials during the heady economy prior to the onset of the recession, though, passed a law meant to ensure street-level spaces along Main Street were occupied by businesses like shops and restaurants. The City Council at the time was worried about the proliferation of real estate showrooms on Main Street, arguing they were not attractive to some people strolling the street.

The discussion on Thursday was spurred by an earlier question from a longtime commercial real estate broker with extensive experience on Main Street. Eric Nelson, who was in attendance on Thursday, wondered whether the project at 205 Main St. meets the law.

Nelson at the meeting on Thursday again argued that the project does not jibe with the law. He indicated there had been an opportunity to enliven the upper section of Main Street with the project.

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Others also criticized the project during what was a short but intense hearing.

Greg Schirf, whose Wasatch Brew Pub is nearby, said the situation is "shocking" to him. He described the difficulties of installing an awning at his business compared to the approval at 205 Main St.

"We don’t need condos on Main Street grade level," Schirf said.

Hope Melville, an Old Town resident, called the situation a "travesty." Doug Clyde, a development consultant representing Grappa Italian Restaurant owner Bill White, said the architecture of the building under construction is "hideous." Jim Tedford, the founder of a group called Preserve Historic Main Street, told the elected officials said he is disappointed in the design.

In an interview, Francisco Astorga, a City Hall planner who drafted a report distributed to the elected officials in anticipation of the meeting, described that the law prohibits multi-unit residential spaces, offices and other uses not classified as retail, restaurant or some sort of other commercial space. Garages are allowed at the street level, he said.

The Planning Department in 2012, as it was considering the project at 205 Main St., determined the proposal met the law. Astorga said the windows and doors were designed in a fashion that did not meet the definition of a storefront. The windows were positioned too high off the ground, as an example, he said. Since there was not a storefront, the project did not trigger a violation of the law, he said.

The elected officials generally expressed unhappiness with the situation. The mayor said it was a "travesty" and the project was inconsistent with the character of Main Street. City Councilman Andy Beerman expressed disappointment, saying the developer found a loophole.

The City Council discussion was held as a vote was scheduled on a zoning matter related to the project. The matter does not involve the dispute about commercial space on the street level. The developer’s side, represented by Jack Johnson, said an approval is needed for lending purposes. He said the developer has spent a couple million dollars on the project thus far.

Liza Simpson, a City Councilor, made a motion for approval, but no other City Councilor seconded the motion. Beerman then offered a motion to continue the matter to an unspecified date to clarify an issue regarding a door that swings outward onto a neighboring property. That motion was approved. It seemed the City Councilors could revisit the law later to clarify the intent.