Survey examines 400 Park City historic buildings
Is there a historic miner’s cottage hiding behind that 1970s aluminum siding? What did that Main Street storefront originally look like? How could it be restored to its original appearance? What businesses have occupied it over the years?
These are a few of the types of questions that the Park City Planning Department hopes to answer with a comprehensive two-to three year survey of more than 400 Park City buildings.
Under a $373,000 contract with the city, the historic preservation firm of Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates (CRSA) is doing an "intensive level survey" to help guide city planners in future decisions on buildings believed to be historic.
"The Planning Department has long desired to have a clearer understanding of the quality of the city’s National Register sites," says a staff report written by Park City Historic Preservation Planner Anya Grahn and Planning Director Thomas E. Eddington Jr. "This project will allow us to update our Historic Structures Inventory (HSI) and create a series of plans to address the city’s valued historic resources."
The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program administered by the National Park Service for the U.S. Department of the Interior. According to the staff report, the Main Street National Register Historic District was created in 1979 with 59 historic buildings, 15 non-historic buildings, and 17 vacant lots. Of those 59 historic buildings, nine have since been demolished.
The city’s planners hopes that information provided by the CRSA survey will help them revise the boundaries of the Historic District, prepare National Register nominations for individual buildings that fall outside the revised boundaries, and work with property owners to reestablish the architectural integrity of seven historic buildings on Main Street.
CRSA and its partners specifically Wally Cooper and Allen Roberts have a long history working on restorations and new buildings in the Park City area dating back to the 1970s. Among their best-known projects are the restoration of the Miners Hospital, the Washington School and the current Park City Library, and the design of the Park City Transit Center and the Swaner EcoCenter.
Roberts says that CRSA staff members are now compiling research files on the 400 buildings beginning with searches of public records such as property ownership files, tax records and building-permit files. Of those 400 buildings, he estimates that about 50 are on Main Street and the rest are in the residential areas of the Historic District with the exception of a few "outliers" outside the district boundaries.
The CRSA survey follows on the heels of what Grahn calls a "reconnaissance-level survey" of historic buildings conducted by consultant Dina Blaes in 2006. Grahn says that Blaes went beyond what was expected in her survey and provided the city with a thorough database. Blaes also submitted a proposal to conduct the intensive-level survey but was not the low bidder.
Sandra Morrison, executive director of the Park City Museum, gives Blaes credit for alerting the City Council to the fact that inappropriate renovations were compromising some historic Main Street buildings.
"And because Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a complete mining historic commercial district, at some point it potentially loses its historic nature as these inappropriate renovations happen," Morrison says.
Morrison notes that preserving Old Town’s "historic nature" is more than a matter of aesthetics. She points to a recent study conducted on behalf of the Utah Heritage Foundation that found, in the recent recession, that the value of homes in historic districts in Utah cities declined less than homes in surrounding neighborhoods. "So I think we’re seeing now a trend of people that are looking for stable investments and that’s not necessarily in the stock market anymore so they are investing their money in Park City’s Historic District."
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