Park City rejects challenge of former art center redo |

Park City rejects challenge of former art center redo

The redevelopment of the building that once housed the Kimball Art Center will include a rooftop deck. The deck will require the removal of a design element from the roof known as a barrel vault, one of the issues a City Hall panel debated on Tuesday as it rejected an appeal of a staff-level approval of the overall project.
Courtesy of Park City Municipal Corp.

A City Hall panel on Tuesday rejected a wide-ranging appeal of an approval of the redevelopment of the building that once housed the Kimball Art Center, a decision that appears to end years of bitter debate about the future of the historic property.

The Board of Adjustment on a 4-1 vote upheld the staff-level decision in favor of the redevelopment. The Park City Historical Society & Museum, through the appeal, challenged the approval, known as a historic district design review, based on a series of concerns about the project. In a historic district design review, municipal staffers weigh a proposal against City Hall’s tight Old Town guidelines. It is oftentimes a controversial process, but the prominence of the former Kimball Art Center property made the decision especially noteworthy.

The Historical Society & Museum appeal was put to the Board of Adjustment. The appeal cited topics like the design of the roof and the plans to remove historic windows. The Board of Adjustment, in upholding the staff-level approval, indicated it wanted an expert in window designs to assess the condition of historic windows on the building and outline options for their replacement or rehabilitation, if needed, according to the Park City Planning Department.

“The goal in these rehabilitation projects . . . is to make sure we’re retaining and maintaining as much of the historic integrity as we can,” Anya Grahn, City Hall’s preservation planner, said in an interview after the decision, calling the renovation a “complex issue.”

The roof design involved in the renovation was debated during the Tuesday meeting as the sides disputed the impact of the proposed changes. The roof historically has featured a design known as a barrel vault, which is an element with an elliptical shape. There are two of them on the roof, spanning from north to south. The design calls for removing the barrel vault on the east side and retaining the other one. That will allow the developer, under the ownership umbrella of a Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm known as Columbus Pacific Properties, to build a rooftop deck.

The Historical Society & Museum’s appeal submittal argued that the project approval “allows demolition and destruction of half of the historic barrel-roof of the Kimball Garage to allow for the installation of a new roof-top balcony extending from the new addition above the east half of the historic building.”

“This addition will dramatically alter the appearance of the Landmark Structure from all angles and is unprecedented,” the submittal said.

The Historical Society & Museum’s appeal also cited the plans to replace elements that are not historic rather than removing them. The appeal submittal filed by the Historical Society & Museum said the project “needs to demonstrate the best practices in historic preservation to meet the community’s desire to preserve our built environment and honor our unique history.”

“Each small concession or inconsistent approval is compounded over time, degrading the historic integrity of our historic buildings and our Historic District,” the submittal also said. “Remarkably, our historic structures have survived from our mining era. Through our stewardship and precaution they can survive for many years into the future.”

Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the Historical Society & Museum, told the Board of Adjustment on Tuesday guidelines were “ignored.”

The lead architect on the project, Craig Elliott, though, contended guidelines were followed. He also said windows have been replaced in other renovations of historic properties, including the Marsac Building.

The Board of Adjustment received a brief amount of testimony. The speakers addressed issues like the guidelines and the loss of one of the barrel vaults. Jim Tedford, the founder of a group called Preserve Historic Main Street, said several parts of the plans are in “direct conflict” with the guidelines. He noted the barrel vaults in his comments. Mike Sweeney, a businessman whose family has interests on lower Main Street, said the project will better link the upper stretch of Main Street with the lower section. He also said the project is superior to earlier designs for an expansion of the Kimball Art Center itself.

The project approval, granted by City Hall staffers last summer, entails the redevelopment of the former Kimball Art Center building and an addition on what is now the patio at the Main Street-Heber Avenue corner. The addition will house commercial spaces on the street level and space designed for events on a second story. The development team said during the Tuesday meeting the rooftop deck is critical to the success of the event space.

The decision on the appeal, it seems, could be one of the last major decisions about a project on the property, a process that was extraordinarily challenging and highlighted the difficulties of developing in Old Town. City Hall rejected a redevelopment plan by the Kimball Art Center itself, leading the not-for-profit organization to sell the property and move into temporary quarters as it considers possibilities for a permanent location. Columbus Pacific Properties encountered resistance as well before winning the necessary approval for the redevelopment.

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