Park City approves development at onetime Kimball Art Center site
June 21, 2016
City Hall staffers on Monday approved the designs for a project at the former site of the Kimball Art Center along Main Street, an important step for a developer with plans to redo the historic property and a landmark decision by the municipal government regarding one of Old Town’s most important locations.
The hard-fought approval of the designs comes after both the Kimball Art Center itself and, later, the developer encountered resistance as City Hall considered earlier designs for the site, situated at one of the corners of the heavily traveled Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection.
The Park City Planning Department approved the designs. An appeal of the staff-level decision would be put to a City Hall panel known as the Board of Adjustment or the Park City Planning Commission depending on the nature of the appeal. The appeal window runs until June 30.
Anya Grahn, the preservation planner for the municipal government, and Community Development Director Anne Laurent, an architect, were heavily involved in reviewing the proposal against City Hall’s strict Old Town design guidelines.
"How does it feel? It’s rewarding. It’s been a long, hard process," said Craig Elliott, the lead architect on the project.
The project entails the redevelopment of the historic building that once housed the Kimball Art Center and an addition on the patio at the corner. The addition, a contemporary design, is envisioned as seven commercial spaces on the street level and space designed for events on a second story. An enclosed walkway and stairway would connect the addition to the historic building. The project fronts Main Street and Heber Avenue.
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"I think it does fit in really well . . . It’s going to be a nice addition on the corner," Elliott said.
The designs do not incorporate residential square footage, a significant change from an earlier iteration. It is uncommon nowadays for a developer to propose an exclusively commercial project since residences are typically seen as being more valuable than storefronts.
The property is under the ownership umbrella of a Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm known as Columbus Pacific Properties.
Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall and another staffer involved in the review, said the developers did not seek an exception to the rules to put up a building taller than what is normally allowed at the site. He said the project will work at the location "if the details are managed correctly."
"You’ll readily be able to tell the difference between the historic structure and new design," Erickson said.
He noted the developers need to secure approval from the Planning Department and the Park City engineer regarding final blueprints for sidewalks, curbs, gutters and no-parking zones.
A series of conditions were attached to the approval, and some dealt with the sensitive nature of redeveloping a historic property. The approval will expire if the developers do not obtain a building permit by June 20, 2017, but the developer is able to apply for an extension.
Some of the conditions appear to be standard for a project in Old Town, such as lessening the impact on nearby properties and that the construction cannot damage historic sites that are adjacent to the former Kimball Art Center location.
The Planning Department decision finding that the designs meet the Old Town guidelines is a critical step in the long-running discussions about the site. The Kimball Art Center wanted to redevelop the property on its own, tapping a renowned Danish architect for the designs. City Hall, though, in 2014 rejected the Bjarke Ingels Group designs for an expansion onto the patio as being too modern along a historic streetscape.
The Kimball Art Center, saying it was unable to redevelop the property in a manner that met its long-term needs, sold the building to a developer. The developer later unsuccessfully engaged City Hall with an earlier concept before opting for the design that the Planning Department approved on Monday.
The discussions about the various proposals for the site illustrated the complexities of development in Old Town, particularly along Main Street. City Hall for years has attempted to protect the historic fabric of the district, enacting tight design restrictions and processes. Developers, though, have long complained that the rules are too strict and stifle innovative designs.