Scenarios show possibility of development on Park City Library field |

Scenarios show possibility of development on Park City Library field

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Under one scenario, perhaps housing could be built in a spot on what is now the Park City Library and Education Center’s parking lot.

In another one, there could be housing put up on the northern edge of the field outside the Library and Education Center, along 13th Street. Two others, it appears, put a pathway through the middle of the field one with housing along the pathway and the other with residences nearby but not right beside the pathway.

The scenarios envisioning housing at the library field were crafted during a recent City Hall-organized exercise involving architects, planners and designers. The design studio focused on the lower Park Avenue corridor, where the municipal government controls a patchwork of properties.

The properties include the field outside the Library and Education Center. Although there are other high-profile pieces of land involved in the discussions about the lower Park Avenue corridor, any ideas involving the library field, particularly if they contemplate development, will almost certainly be heavily scrutinized.

Many Parkites see the library field as a community backyard. People play various sports there, run their dogs off leashes and otherwise hang out. There are crowds there throughout the year. But it is also one of the largest undeveloped spaces owned by City Hall that is not set aside from development through restrictions on the land.

There have occasionally been ideas to build work force or affordable housing on at least part of the library field, but they never progressed amid opposition from people who wanted the field left as is.

It seems unlikely that any of the scenarios presented during the recent design studio will advance, either. The scenarios and the drawings of housing at the site, though, perhaps provide a preview of the development prospects of the library field should City Hall someday pursue a project. Park City leaders over the years have not supported developing housing on the library field and there does not seem to be backing among the current slate of elected officials.

Mayor Jack Thomas said in an interview the Park City Council did not direct municipal staffers to pursue a project at the location. He said the field is popular place for sports and picnics. Architects "tend to push the envelope," Thomas, himself an architect, said. He also said he "heard loud and clear" people do not want the field developed.

"We shouldn’t be trading off the amenity for housing. My opinion is we leave it alone," Thomas said.

The drawings are vague, showing locations where housing is seen as being possible but little else. It is not clear from the drawings whether the housing is envisioned as houses or multi-family buildings of some sort. Each drawing leaves some undeveloped land where the library field is located.

Park City officials have made housing one of the key priorities for the municipal government. Housing has long been a challenge for Park City as real estate prices and rents climbed alongside the city’s rise to elite status among North America’s mountain resorts. Many members of the work force and senior citizens have been priced out of the Park City real estate market. Park City leaders say a robust housing program has many benefits, including cutting commuter traffic and ensuring socioeconomic diversity.

There is often resistance, though, to work force or otherwise restricted housing projects in Park City. Opponents generally argue that the projects are too dense for a site and would create additional traffic. They sometimes claim that a housing project could bring down real estate prices in the nearby neighborhood.

The resistance would be expected to be fierce if City Hall were to pursue a project on the library field in the future. Some Parkites who attended a public event during the design studio expressed their opposition to the idea of any sort of development on the field. They argued that the field is one of just a few gathering spots in the neighborhood. Some left anonymous comments urging City Hall to keep the field undeveloped, including one that likened the library field to Central Park in New York City.