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Sundance buildings on schedule

The Sundance Institute later this year plans to move its headquarters to refurbished mining-era buildings on the edge of Thaynes Canyon. Jill Miller, the institute's managing director, wants the offices to be "a little bit funky." Grayson West/Park Record

Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

When the 2007 edition of film-festival week wraps a year from now, the Sundance Institute staffers will not have to travel far to get back to their offices.

The institute plans to move its year-round Utah headquarters from Salt Lake City to Park City later in 2006, a decision tied to a long-term agreement with the Park City government that could keep the Sundance Film Festival in the city for more than 20 years.

The institute’s new headquarters will be in the Silver Star condominium project on the edge of Thaynes Canyon, at the bottom of the slopes at Park City Mountain Resort.

Rory Murphy, who leads Paladin, the Silver Star development team, said that he is contractually obligated to deliver Sundance its office space by Aug. 20, as the institute is normally preparing for the following film festival.

This week, Murphy was confident that he will have the Sundance space ready by the August deadline.

"I am 100 percent confident," Murphy said.

Sundance will occupy two historic buildings on the Silver Star grounds, what was once a machine shop and what was once a sawmill. The buildings are located at the site of the Spiro Tunnel, a significant mining-era parcel of land.

Murphy said crews are now prepping for the work on the two buildings after receiving permits from the Building Department over the last few months.

"It’s a lot of work. The hardest part is during the planning and getting all of the architecture in a row," he said.

Murphy said the machine shop will be 5,000 square feet and the sawmill building will encompass 1,800 square feet. He said the rehabilitation of the two buildings will cost "a lot" of money, considerably more than $1 million.

"We’re extremely pleased and extremely proud to be hosting the Sundance Institute," he said.

The Sundance buildings will be used exclusively for office space, meaning that films during the festival will not be scheduled there and the institute does not plan to hold parties inside. About 30 Sundance staffers will work out of the buildings all year and, in the period around the festival, the numbers will swell by about 70.

Silver Star won the key approval in August 2004, when the Park City Council unanimously agreed to annex approximately12 acres of land for the project. Afterward, the developers received ‘Yea’ votes allowing the project to proceed.

The development entails 98 condominiums. Murphy expects that the first phase, 39 condominiums, will be finished in a year. The condominiums start in the low $700,000s, Murphy said, and buyers have reserved each of the units.

An artist-in-residence program, separate from Sundance, is planned at Silver Star, which the developers have long touted as an arts-and-skiing project.

Neighbors supported the project, with only a smattering of concern about the amount of traffic that Silver Star would attract.

But it was not until mid-2005 that the developers revealed they were in negotiations with Sundance regarding the institute’s offices and, in October, the City Council approved the long-term deal with the institute.

Jill Miller, the managing director of the institute, said this week that Sundance is helping design the office space and that she wants the offices to be "a little bit funky."

"I think we want it to be reflective of the Sundance Institute culture," Miller said.

She said, through the agreement with Paladin, the developer will financially assist with the move.

Sundance and the developers negotiated a 10-year lease for the space with a 10-year option, mirroring the period outlined in a separate deal that Sundance and City Hall entered into keeping the festival in Park City. Murphy declined to comment about Sundance’s rent.

The City Hall-Sundance deal was a landmark accord that both sides hailed. The government agreed to pay Sundance $220,000 per year and the Park City Chamber/Bureau will pay Sundance $160,000 each year. The money is meant to partly offset the potential loss of Salt Lake County funding once the institute moves to Park City.

On its side, Sundance agreed to hold the festival in Park City until at least 2018. Afterward, Sundance has a 10-year option, potentially keeping Sundance in Park City until 2028.

The previous festival deal was scheduled to expire in 2008.

The festival, which ends on Sunday, is seen as the top market for independent films in the U.S. and, with festivals like those in Cannes, France, and Toronto, is one of the top film festivals in the world.

The government was especially interested in the deal to ensure that the festival stays in Park City. Sundance estimates that the film festival in 2005 generated $42.7 million in economic activity, most of which was in Summit County. This year, some businesses on Main Street reported at mid-festival that they were experiencing record sales.

Sundance, meanwhile, sees the deal as a means to streamline operations and solidify its standing in Park City.

"Long-term commitment to the community is important," Miller said.


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