Old Town project on track, but will opponents derail efforts? | ParkRecord.com

Old Town project on track, but will opponents derail efforts?


A marketing sign has been posted at the site where a developer intends to build the Rio Grande project on Park Avenue. The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday could cast a vote. Jay Hamburger/Park Record

A development proposal on Old Town land that once was the site of a railroad operation appears on track for an approval.

Next stop: the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday.

The City Hall panel could cast a vote on the Rio Grande development, 820 Park Ave. The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. in the Park City Council chambers at the Marsac Building. A hearing is scheduled prior to a possible vote.

The site is situated just off Main Street and is close to the Town Lift. The parcel is one of the few remaining largely undeveloped pieces of land on or close to Main Street. The developer, known as 820 Park Avenue, LLC and led by Rory Murphy, wants to put up 10 residential units and three commercial spaces in a new building.

The developer also wants to refurbish the historic Rio Grande building into a commercial space. The plans involve moving the Rio Grande building 60 feet to the north and 10 feet to the west.

The Planning Commission could approve a permit for the project on Wednesday. City Hall staffers issued a report in anticipation of the meeting recommending the permit be approved. Staffers, meanwhile, separately continue to review the proposal against the municipal government’s tight Old Town design guidelines.

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Murphy, a veteran developer who has incorporated historic buildings into projects before, has said the Rio Grande work would be influenced by the history at the site.

There has been opposition from people with places nearby, and a few letters against the project were provided to the Planning Commission in anticipation of the meeting on Wednesday. The opposition is especially worried about the size of the new building. People with interests in the Lift Lodge, located next door on Main Street, have offered opposition letters.

The Lift Lodge Home Owners Association on Jan. 3 submitted a letter to the Planning Commission listing concerns like the shadows that the project will cast on their building, noise and the timeline of construction.

"The proposed building is very high and close making the homes much darker. Additionally, the environment will be significantly altered as our owners will only be a few feet from a building wall, the letter says.

It also asks that construction only be allowed in the spring and the fall, avoiding the busy summer and winter tourism seasons.

An individual with a place in the Lift Lodge, Steven Shuster, submitted a letter with similar concerns.

"It’s hard to believe that the city would allow a 3-story complex to be erected right on top of the west side of our building, destroying our view and, frankly, the ambience of our location," Shuster wrote in an undated message. "It would seem that when we purchased our vacation home in Park City specifically in this location, we had a reasonable expectation that we would not end up being swallowed up by a wall of condominiums right outside our windows and losing our view of the mountains."

Shuster also said in the message the work "will kill our income for as long as the construction takes." The message refers to money earned by owners who rent their units.

The project would continue what has been an extraordinary amount of private-sector investment on or just off Main Street since the lowest point of the recession. There are construction projects lining Main Street, including large ones at the site of the building that was once known as the Main Street Mall as well as the redo of the Silver Queen Hotel.

In an interview, the developer acknowledged the input City Hall received.

"I think I understand that there’s an angst and a sense of loss," Murphy said, adding, "Neighbors want vacant lots to be vacant."

Murphy hopes to break ground on the project in the spring. Construction is expected to take up to 16 months, he said. The first people could move into the project in the fall of 2015, at the earliest, depending on the City Hall approval process, Murphy said.