Park where? Garage still lags behind
City Hall does not expect to complete the new Swede Alley parking garage, the government’s biggest Old Town project since before the 2002 Winter Olympics, until the end of January, six weeks after the initial target date of mid-December.
The revised timetable is significant as Park City moves into the busiest time of the year, when big Christmas-week crowds descend on the city and, about three weeks later, Sundance Film Festival-goers arrive.
This week, Colin Hilton, who directs the city’s capital projects, would not predict a date when the garage would be finished, saying that variables like the weather could hinder the work. He said the garage would be what he described as substantially complete by late January. He said the entire garage would be open when it is substantially completed.
"We’re going to open it as early as we can," Hilton said.
The city, though, has reopened the entire existing China Bridge garage, located directly south of the new garage, and a 24-space lot on Swede Alley, called the ‘historic wall’ lot. That means that, during the holidays, there will be about the same number of spots available as last year’s Christmas week. The additional spaces in the new garage, however, will not be available.
The new garage will hold 305 spaces, netting the city 277 spots since some parking spaces were built over during the construction.
The Main Street merchants, who have been pressing for a new garage for years, do not appear greatly displeased with the delay. Ken Davis, the president of the Main Street Business Alliance, said the late-January timetable for completion is not a "major catastrophe" but said the merchants are disappointed.
"It’s not going to help. It’s a question of how much it will hurt," Davis said.
He noted that February and March are usually big months for Main Street merchants and the garage should be done by then.
"We’re disappointed but there’s not much we can do about it," Davis said.
Hilton explained that crews recently encountered a problem with several bands of post-tension cable. The cables are put down each time concrete is poured. Two concrete pours are needed for each level of the garage, he said.
Jacobsen Construction, the project’s general contractor, increased its crews’ hours, targeting an 80-hour work week from a 60-hour week previously, Hilton said. They are on the job each day.
"They’re working their tails off with the resources they have," Hilton said.
There have also been problems securing the cement needed for the project. The lack of cement has been attributed to a worldwide shortage blamed on reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina and a building boom in Asia.
The delays have not increased the cost to City Hall and the price for the garage remains at $5.75 million. Related work adds another $500,000.
Main Street merchants for years have complained that there are not enough parking spots in the Old Town core and past studies had shown that there was a parking shortage during the busy times of the year. A new garage had been contemplated for some time but detailed discussions, including budget talks, did not unfold until the last several years.
Mayor Dana Williams said people should not blame City Hall for the delayed opening since problems like the cement shortage are not the local government’s fault.
"I can’t really worry too much about things we can’t control," he said.
He also said the merchants have not revolted because of the delays.
"I think most of them are pretty understanding," he said. "I think they understand this wasn’t a bureaucratic snafu that caused this."
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Park City officials are expected to present information about upcoming work on the Treasure acreage designed to guard against a wildfire, as well as a series of other City Hall projects and programs, at an open house that is scheduled next week.