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Sundance debuts its offices

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

As Hal Compton milled about the Sundance Institute’s new Park City offices on Wednesday, he contemplated what the institute’s headquarters building, a refurbished mining-era structure, once meant to the city.

And he says that the people who worked in the building a century ago would be bewildered with the structure, which fell into disrepair until developers fixed it up for Sundance.

"I think they would be pleased the basic buildings are preserved but they’d be shocked with what happened," Compton says as Sundance officials unveiled the offices to an invited crowd estimated to be several hundred.

The Wednesday event, held six weeks after Sundance moved its Utah offices from downtown Salt Lake City to Park City, drew Park City officials, Sundance executives and others interested in seeing the offices.

The event, with wine and hors d’oeuvres, resembled lots of other nonprofit gatherings, but the significance of Sundance’s arrival in Park City was apparent. Beverly Hills, Calif-based Sundance staffers, including the institute’s executive director, attended and the Parkites at the invitation-only event represented the diverse sectors of the community.

Sundance’s arrival in Park City, where it is housed at the Silver Star condominium development on the western edge of Thaynes Canyon, resulted from a landmark deal primarily between City Hall and the institute that wooed Sundance’s Utah offices to Park City and guaranteed that the Sundance Film Festival remains in the city through 2018 with an option for another 10 years.

As part of those negotiations, the Silver Star developers and Sundance reached a separate accord for a lease that largely mirrors the period outlined in the Park City-Sundance agreement.

"Park City values eccentricities. Walk down Main Street. Park City values difference," says Ken Brecher, the executive director of the institute, who is based in Sundance’s Beverly Hills headquarters and traveled to Park City for Wednesday’s event.

Thirty-four Sundance staffers will work at the Silver Star offices all year, says Patrick Hubley, the institute’s spokesperson. They include those assigned to film festival operations, budgeting and human resources. The festival director and programmers are among the 35 people who will continue to be based in Beverly Hills, according to Hubley.

Sundance has long maintained that the Silver Star location will not be hopping with parties and other film festival revelry. Hubley says that the location will continue to operate as offices during the annual January festival and that the film-festival headquarters will continue to be situated at the Park City Marriott on Sidewinder Drive, in Prospector. He says that lots of the planning for the festival will take place at the Silver Star offices.

"This is where the festival comes together," he says.

Robert Redford’s film festival remains the top event on Park City’s calendar, drawing huge crowds for what is widely regarded as the top marketplace for independent films in the U.S. and, with events like those in Cannes, France, and Toronto, one of world’s most prestigious film festivals.

Sundance is known for producing box-office hits like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Napoleon Dynamite" and a list of well-received documentaries.

For Park City, the film festival, scheduled each year during the last third of January, is the most lucrative event, generating an estimated $52.9 million in economic activity in the city in 2006, according to a Sundance report issued after this year’s festival.

Lots of businesses, especially restaurants, nightclubs and some retailers, do huge business during Sundance, which is scheduled during a time that had traditionally been a post-holidays lull in the ski season.

Tina Lewis, a longtime Parkite who says she has been involved with Sundance since 1981 and currently co-chairs a committee of Utahns that works with Sundance, says the Silver Star offices befit Sundance.

"The building is so rugged and beautifully designed. To put this kind of creative adventure in a building like this is a perfect match," Lewis says, noting that the offices will be more convenient for Sundance during the festival.

The primary Sundance building, spreading over 5,000 square feet, was a machine shop during Park City’s mining heyday. Rory Murphy, the Silver Star developer, says Sundance will also occupy a building on the grounds, once a sawmill, seasonally during the festival and another seasonal building for Sundance will be built later.

Silver Star encompasses 98 condominiums on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and the Sundance buildings are representative of the developers’ desire to create an arts-and-skiing project. An artist-in-residence program is also planned.

Murphy says that the Sundance remodel is among the most ambitious historic renovations in Park City, similar, he says, to Miners Hospital, the Park City Library and Education Center and the Marsac Building. He says the work cost "a substantial amount of money" but declines to cite the dollar amount.

"I thought that the building turned out as well as it could have," he says. "I think it turned out wonderfully."


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