Prospector Square contemplates a facelift
From the street, the façade of the Good Karma restaurant is barely visible behind a palisade of parked cars and SUVs in a recessed asphalt lot in Prospector Square.
But on a summer day, the patio behind the building is a quiet oasis where people can share a leisurely meal as chickadees chatter in the nearby evergreens.
"People consider Good Karma’s patio one of the hidden gems of Park City, because a lot of people don’t know about it. It’s out of sight, out of mind. And when people drive by, they don’t even realize that the patio is even back there," says co-owner Blanca Gohary.
"The feedback we get from a lot of our customers is that it’s very serene. It’s very relaxing. It has a great ambiance. There’s no traffic sounds because it’s so insulated."
The patio is part of a network of interior walkways stretching through Prospector Square from Gold Dust Lane on the east to Bonanza Drive on the west. But, unlike Main Street, the network attracts few pedestrians, says Alison Butz, the executive director of the Prospector Square Property Owners Association. Butz, a former Park City planner, was hired by Prospector Square in May 2013 to help find ways to upgrade the 40-year-old development.
"How do we activate this walkway, which, in design, is a great theory, but all our buildings are turned the opposite way?" Butz asks. "All our buildings are turned towards the parking lot, and so the walkway is now more of an alley. How do we turn that around? How can we make this a gathering space? Good Karma, Lespri, they do great outdoor dining. It provides fabulous space. How can we do more of that?"
She says improving the walkways is just part of a discussion that has also involved lighting, landscaping, irrigation and traffic patterns.
"We’re not looking at increasing height. We’re not looking at increasing density. We’re not looking at adding more building pads than there already are. We’re just looking to improve. And so it’s a bit of a different discussion than other areas in town are having."
As defined by the original 1970s plan, Prospector Square includes the area bordered by Bonanza Drive, Kearns Boulevard, Sidewinder Drive, Gold Dust Lane and Prospector Avenue. It also includes the BelleAire and BelleMarc properties north of Sidewinder Drive as well as several properties and parking lots between Prospector Avenue and the Rail Trail. However, it does not include the commercial properties where businesses such as Einstein Brothers and White Pine Touring are located.
"We say they’re in the Prospector Square neighborhood, and we are reaching out to them, but as far as land that we manage, that’s not included," Butz says.
After about a year of "visioning discussions," the Prospector Square board of directors decided to ask for proposals from firms specializing in land planning and landscape architecture, she says. From four proposals the board chose one submitted by Logan Simpson Design of Salt Lake City.
"They’ve provided some concepts and showed us some plans, and we’re wowed," Butz says.
The architects have offered some innovative solutions that include grinding down the surface of the existing concrete walkways to expose the aggregate, giving it the appearance of laid stone.
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, those plans will be on display from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at an open house at the Park City Marriott hotel on Sidewinder Drive. Butz says individual notices are being sent to Prospector property owners and tenants along with owners of adjacent properties.
"It’s going to be a true open-house format so people can stop in at any time. There will be boards and concept drawings and other materials and (attendees) can talk to the consultants," she says.
"Our hope is, after we receive that input, to put it all together, come out with a final plan, and from that final plan we can either phase our construction or go forward and get design drawings and get bids for actual construction."
Depending on the scope of the final plan, costs could be in the $3 million to $4 million range, she says. For a group with an annual budget of about $360,000, that could be a tall order.
"So we’re having discussions with the city. Prospector previously had a special improvement district to help manage the soils. And so the city is helping us investigate if that’s a potential method to fund this. It allows us to get the funding up front but to be able to pay for it over time," she says.
Butz says her experience as a planner and her relationships with city staff — she’s also the executive director of the Historic Park City alliance — have helped her coordinate a range of discussions with the city engineer, planning director and city manager.
"The city does have Prospector Avenue on their list for reconstruction in 2017," she says. "And so with that we’ve met with them a couple of times. And from our understanding, it’s going to include an analysis of all the utilities underneath the road, replacement of the roadway, curb and gutter, and going all the way to the sidewalk. They’re going to start a design process in the fall." She says this could lead to wider sidewalks along Prospector Avenue.
Butz says those discussions have also involved two key intersections affecting traffic into and out of Prospector Square.
"The city has indicated, and will readily acknowledge, that both this intersection here at Prospector and Bonanza and this one at Kearns and Sidewinder have failed. They’re like an ‘F’ rating. As part of the Prospector Avenue reconstruction they are going to look at some reconfiguration in this (intersection). A roundabout has been (suggested). We’ve always heard, though, that it is too close (to Kearns Boulevard) for another stoplight. You don’t get enough queuing space.
On the other hand, the city hasn’t proposed any options for the Sidewinder-Kearns intersection at this point, Butz says.
According to Butz, Prospector owners and tenants recognize the need to reinvest to stay current in the marketplace.
"We’re not the only game in town," she says. "And when you have areas that are newly developed, their sidewalks look good. Their lighting’s good. Their landscaping looks great. It’s an image that, if someone’s looking to locate a business and everything’s equal, is that what’s causing them to look elsewhere?"
For Blanca Gohary, who has owned and operated Good Karma since 2006, it’s about time Prospector Square got some attention.
"I always felt like we were the bastard stepchild of Park City, because everyone loved Main Street and then everyone gravitated towards Redstone," she says.
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Park City Attorney Margaret Plane recently sent a memo to elected and appointed officials, as well as candidates in the City Hall election, cautioning them about making public statements regarding development proposals. The memo outlines that stands on planning and zoning matters could jeopardize a later process, such as when a decision by the Planning Commission is put to the City Council through an appeal.