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Primed to party

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A major figure in the North of Main district plans to allow promoters to turn a sprawling old lumber yard into a bustling entertainment spot during the Sundance Film Festival in what is the most ambitious idea of its kind outside of Main Street.

The idea, which City Hall has not yet approved, would spread the partying in January well off Main Street, create hundreds of parking spaces at a time when parking is at a premium and lure more corporate interests to Park City during the film festival.

Mark J. Fischer and the New York-based promoter he rented the space to have dubbed the arrangement ‘The Yard,’ and Park City officials are considering the request. Under the plans, more than 1,000 people are anticipated at the site each day, with parts of the space operating almost all the time, from 8 a.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning.

"It’s just meant to be different. It’s not meant to take anything away from Main Street," Fischer says. "The vibrancy of Main Street is the center of Sundance activity."

According to a submittal to City Hall, the plans for The Yard, situated on the abandoned Anderson Lumber yard, include:

( A place called ‘The Store,’ which will cover about 7,000 square feet. The organizers plan a hospitality spot, a place to hand out gifts and a bistro in The Store. The spot is where the old Anderson Lumber store operated.

( ‘The Warehouse,’ which spreads over about 12,000 square feet. Concerts, bonfires, sledding and press events are slated for The Warehouse.

Both spaces are planned as invitation-only areas.

A parking lot with space for about 300 cars is planned. The organizers intend to charge for parking, with fees of about $15 per day under consideration.

In an unrelated agreement, Fischer says he will offer space at 1665 Bonanza Drive to Sundance officials for a parking lot meant for the film festival’s volunteers. He estimates the lot will hold between 100 and 125 spaces.

Plans call for outdoor activities to end at 10 p.m. each night, an effort to appease people who live in nearby condominiums.

The Yard would occupy an intriguing spot during the festival. It sits within walking distance to Sundance screening rooms like Holiday Village and the Eccles Center, and bus stops are nearby.

Fischer, meanwhile, says The Yard is attracting promoters and corporate interests as they scurry for space during Sundance. The film festival attracts many companies, some of which are not official Sundance sponsors, and the rental market is highly competitive for commercial space in Park City during Sundance.

Sundance organizers continue to consider how they could use Fischer’s parking lot on Bonanza Drive. Sarah Pearce, who directs the film festival’s operations for Sundance, says her side is not involved in The Yard. She has not been briefed about the plan’s details.

Fischer and others are trying to make the NoMa district, which is centered along Bonanza Drive, a hip place full of boutiques, restaurants and loft-style living. Fischer says The Yard will advance NoMa’s efforts to market itself as an alternative to Main Street and other commercial districts in the area.

"It shows it’s important based on its central location," he says, hoping to parlay The Yard concept into an all-year event center. "It helps add vibrancy to this area of town."

City Hall has not started a detailed review of the idea, and Jonathan Weidenhamer, the City Hall staffer handling the request, says officials must consider The Yard’s effects on neighbors and traffic, among other issues.

"It’s a big chunk of space that’s not being used . . . It’s another attraction, but it’s a balance," Weidenhamer says.

He expects to start talks with Park City Councilors in December. He anticipates a decision by the elected officials in early January, likely within about two weeks before Sundance is scheduled to start.

In the 1990s and the early part of this decade, as Sundance became more prominent on the international circuit, partying during film-festival week expanded to neighborhoods like Solamere, where promoters would rent houses and throw huge events. Neighbors were dismayed, and City Hall guided much of the revelry toward Main Street. The Yard would be the biggest organized challenge to Main Street.

"A lot of what’s going on over at The Yard is overflow," Fischer says. "There’s more demand than supply on Main Street."


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