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Sundance eyes lower Main Street

Sundance Film Festival organizers said Thursday they might approach City Hall soon with an idea to close a section of lower Main Street to traffic during next year’s festival, a move, they say, that could turn the stretch of the street into a new festival hotspot.

The organizers mentioned the idea during a meeting with the Park City Council held at Sundance’s offices at Silver Star. The meeting covered numerous other Sundance-related topics. The elected officials were not scheduled to make significant decisions regarding the festival on Thursday, and Sundance did not provide details about ideas for lower Main Street.

Talks between city officials, Sundance and merchants about closing part of lower Main Street to traffic would likely be held through the fall. A top-ranking festival official, operations director Sarah Pearce, said organizers plan to meet with Main Street merchants by the end of September. It is unclear when formal meetings with the City Council would be scheduled.

Sundance is interested in Main Street between 7th Street and 9th Street. Pearce said the extent of a possible closure has not been determined. Sundance could ask for it to be closed the entire festival or for a few days, she said.

City Hall has long seen that stretch of Main Street as viable place for street closures for events, saying that they work logistically and they draw crowds to the businesses on that end of the street.

If a section of lower Main Street is closed for the extent of the festival, plus a short period before and after for crews to set up and dismantle the Sundance zone, it would be the most significant closure on the street since the 2002 Winter Olympics. City Hall closed the length of Main Street to traffic throughout the 17-day Olympics to create a pedestrian-only celebration area.

Pearce said Sundance is hashing out ideas for the stretch of Main Street, with the potential of holding concerts there, among other possibilities to attract Parkites and people visiting for the festival. She said festival sponsors would also be involved.

"It would help us create a focal point," Pearce said in an interview, adding that doing so would widen Sundance’s official presence on Main Street, where films are screened at the Egyptian Theatre, Sundance concerts are held at the Star Bar under the Music Cafe moniker and a technology center is set up in the Main Street Mall.

Meanwhile, Pearce said Sundance and the owners of the Town Lift Plaza, which sits just off lower Main Street, have reached an agreement to make the plaza an official festival location. Details about activities planned there were not discussed, but Pearce said afterward the plaza would be used for hosting sponsors.

Main Street draws big crowds of revelers during the festival, with the opening weekend being especially busy on the street, and corporate interests without ties to the festival frequently rent storefronts for exposure. A move by Sundance onto lower Main Street would offer their own corporate sponsors high visibility as a counter to the others on the street without sponsorship deals with the festival.

The effects on traffic in Old Town if a portion of lower Main Street is closed have not been detailed.

Sandy Geldhof, the executive director of the Main Street Business Alliance, a merchants group, said in an interview after the meeting traffic closures on Main Street "always have repercussions." Geldhof, who did not attend on Thursday, said she had spoken to Pearce about the idea previously.

Geldhof said she plans to talk to each of the merchants on lower Main Street. She said the businesses on that part of the street could benefit, but the merchants group has not considered the idea yet.

"I think it kind of opens up the exposure the lower Main Street merchants have to the crowd," she said.


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