Park City business-group leader readies to leave after charting Main Street course through coronavirus
Alison Kuhlow held a key role in crafting the plans for an economic comeback after 2020 shutdowns
Alison Kuhlow in the middle of March ordinarily would be readying for the summer-tourism season, crafting plans for Main Street in the warm-weather months.
The executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, Kuhlow in mid-March of 2020, though, was thrust with the rest of the Park City area into the unknown of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The mountain resorts were forced to end the ski season several weeks earlier than planned and the wider business community essentially was shuttered.
The Historic Park City Alliance, which represents the interests of businesses in the Main Street core, was one of the entities that held a key role in the months after the 2020 shutdowns as blueprints were crafted for an economic comeback.
“Not easy,” she recalled about the first days of the impacts of the pandemic on Park City, which was one of the first places in the state to suffer a cluster of cases. “I remember that Saturday the 14th, of having to call every single restaurant on Main Street.”
The conversations were difficult with some of the businesses. Kuhlow was relaying information from public health officials, but not all the owners she represents were pleased, she recalled.
“Not pleasant. There were a few shoot-the-messenger-type situations,” she said.
Kuhlow, who became one of the figures associated with the broad plans to reignite the Park City economy, is departing as the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance on June 30.
She is currently serving as the top staffer of the organization for a second time. She led the group between 2010 and 2016, another notable time as Main Street emerged from the difficulties of the recession of more than a decade ago. She returned as the executive director in September of 2019, just months before the pandemic struck. Kuhlow plans to pursue other opportunities, including the possibility of representing business groups outside of Park City. She will continue to work as a staffer at the Habitat for Humanity chapter that represents Summit County and Wasatch County.
She worked for City Hall for 12 years — in the planning, special events and sustainability offices — prior to her first stretch with the Historic Park City Alliance. Kuhlow, 46, lives in Park Meadows.
Kuhlow was the primary author of a Historic Park City Alliance plan for an economic comeback from the impacts of the coronavirus. The plan was released just weeks after the shutdowns of March 2020 and served as a blueprint of sorts for the discussions between Main Street and City Hall that spring that resulted in the introduction of pedestrian days last summer. The pedestrian days were a highly visible element of the overall plans for a comeback, but there were many others that did not receive publicity.
The Historic Park City Alliance is the community’s most visible and influential business group other than the Park City Chamber/Bureau. The membership covers a broad range of businesses, including the well-known shops, restaurants and nightclubs along Main Street. The group also represents businesses not generally associated with the street itself, such as office tenants in the Main Street core. Although the Main Street core geographically covers just a small area, there are numerous competing interests. The various sectors have individual wishes while there has long been tension between the businesses on either side of the Heber Avenue intersection.
Kuhlow said she is proud of having been able to work with the various interests through a series of controversial issues. She mentioned the alterations to the Park Silly Sunday Market introduced over time that have stretched the crowds throughout Main Street after the Silly Market drew so many to the lower section of the street. She also noted a major revamping of the paid-parking system and the passage of a sales-tax increase that has provided funds for improvements. The talks that resulted on restrictions on chain stores in the Main Street core were launched during her first stretch as the executive director.
She said the Historic Park City Alliance, as an organization, is currently strong and has a board of directors that understands its responsibilities. She said she is leaving the Historic Park City Alliance with a “solid foundation.”
Kuhlow said the top Main Street challenges include parking and traffic. There is also a diverse group of business owners who are “out-of-the-box thinkers,” she said.
“It’s kind of like its own city,” she said, adding, “It’s got its own little microcosm of issues.”
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