Park City readies for key meetings about arts district as decisions near on ambitious project
Leaders schedule a hearing as heavy machinery starts to clear the land for development
Heavy machinery early in the week was clearing the canvas for a planned City Hall-developed arts and culture district, in the hours and days before important gatherings were planned that are expected to frame the upcoming discussions about the especially ambitious municipal project.
Leaders for nearly four years have intended to create a district stretching inward from the intersection of Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard, on a little more than 5 acres of land acquired by City Hall in a $19.5 million deal with the Bonanza Park partnership. The Kimball Art Center and the Utah offices of the Sundance Institute are envisioned as the anchors of a project that would also involve workforce or otherwise restricted housing and transportation infrastructure alongside artist studios and other spaces meant to advance the arts.
Some of the highlights include:
• 50 units of affordable housing
• 10 units for an artist in residence program
• 230 spots of underground parking
• a 76,000-square-foot plaza and adjacent sloped lawn
Materials distributed by City Hall indicate the plans involve a 28,000-square-foot Kimball Art Center building and a 40,000-square-foot building for what is labeled a “future arts anchor.” That space is presumed to be the location of a building for Sundance, which has been involved in the project since the start and as recently as late March said it wants to continue to work with City Hall on the district.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council, though, are locked in difficult discussions about funding amid the continuing economic impacts of the spread of the novel coronavirus. The City Hall portion of the project is estimated at $88.4 million, not including the $19.5 million acquisition price. The municipal government would recoup some of the costs through the sale of land to the Kimball Art Center and Sundance. City Hall would also generate monies through collecting rent on the residences to offset the maintenance and operations costs.
The supporters say a district would solidify the community as a cultural destination and help diversify the Park City economy from one that is heavily dependent on the ski industry and related sectors. There have been increasing questions in recent months, though, about the price of the project. Some wonder whether it is appropriate for a community the size of Park City to pursue a district at a cost into the nine digits while others question whether there is a better use of the monies.
A group representing Main Street businesses in mid-March, meanwhile, formally outlined its opposition to a funding strategy that would shift some monies raised from a sliver of the taxes charged on most purchases inside Park City to the project. The Historic Park City Alliance wants City Hall to continue to pursue Main Street improvements with the monies.
The sides are preparing for an important City Council hearing scheduled on Wednesday. The elected officials are scheduled to take testimony in the setting of a formal hearing during a special meeting that afternoon. The hearing was scheduled to offer an opportunity for testimony with the mayor and City Council readying to make decisions shortly. The City Council the next day has time set aside for further discussion alongside the broader meeting agenda.
It was unclear early in the week what sort of crowd the elected officials will attract for the hearing, which will be conducted electronically as City Hall continues to hold online meetings in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The supporters of the district could return to their long-held assertions that the project is worthwhile even at a time of uncertainty, pointing to City Hall’s solid financial standing even after a year of the pandemic. They could also note what they anticipate will be long-term economic benefits that could offset some of the worries about the finances. The critics, though, could counter with an argument holding that it is not the time for a municipal government to launch a nine-digit project with economic unknowns continuing.
The hearing on Wednesday and the meeting on Thursday are scheduled as City Hall-hired crews were on the acreage demolishing buildings early in the week. Wreckage from buildings like the one that once housed Anaya’s Market was visible from the perimeter of the land as the heavy machinery continued the work.
The City Council hearing about the arts district on Wednesday is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. The City Council meeting the next day is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. with the discussion about the arts district slated to begin at 4:15 p.m.
More information about the two events is available on the City Hall website, parkcity.org.
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A member of the Park City Planning Commission for at least the second time in less than a year spoke publicly about a concept that would financially involve City Hall in a development proposal at Park City Mountain Resort. Planning Commissioner John Phillips did not address the concept in any depth during a lengthy meeting.