Sundance Institute adopts a local landmark | ParkRecord.com

Sundance Institute adopts a local landmark

by Jay Hamburger, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Outside the hubbub of the Sundance Film Festival premiers, tucked on the edge of Park City, Sundance staffers will be planning for the day’s happenings.

And in 2007, for the first time, they will be sitting at their own desks.

The Sundance Institute in 2006 moved its year-round Utah headquarters from Salt Lake City to Park City, setting up in a renovated old mining building.

The move was heralded by lots of people, from top Sundance officials to those who love Park City’s historic structures. It also was a key part of an overall deal that will keep the festival in Park City.

During the film festival, the offices, located on the grounds of the Silver Star development, will be buzzing but they will not be a hotspot for the revelry that Sundance brings to the city.

Patrick Hubley, a Sundance spokesman, says the staffers responsible for making sure the festival operates smoothly will be working in the Sundance offices. It is not one of the film festival’s venues.

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"The Utah component of the planning team works out of here," Hubley says.

The headquarters for the film festival are located across the city, at the Park City Marriott on Sidewinder Drive. That is where the festival’s organizers set up a filmmakers office and press operations, for instance.

Festival-goers do not have the chance to tour Sundance’s digs at Silver Star, a condominium development on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort. Sundance’s offices, there, however, are touted as one of Park City’s most significant historic renovations.

During a reception in the fall, several hundred people packed into the offices to see the results of the renovation. People were impressed with the workmanship.

The 5,000-square-foot offices are in what was a mining-era machine shop dating from the turn of the century, when Park City’s silver-mining industry was in its heyday. The Sundance organizers also occupy what was a woodshop, dating from the same era, during the festival. A little more than 30 Sundance staffers work out of the offices all year.

"The building is so rugged and beautifully designed. To put this kind of creative adventure in a building like this is a perfect match," Tina Lewis, a longtime Parkite who has been involved with Sundance since 1981, said at the fall reception.

Ken Brecher, the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based executive director of Sundance, was also pleased with the move to Park City, saying the city suits the institute.

"Park City values eccentricities. Walk down Main Street. Park City values difference," he said then.

The Utah headquarters move to Park City occurred after a long negotiation between Sundance, City Hall and the Silver Star developers. Sundance agreed to move the offices to Park City as part of a wider agreement that ensures the festival will take place in Park City through 2018 with an option for another 10 years.

Sundance won financial inducements from City Hall and the Park City Chamber/Bureau. In return, Sundance agreed to keep the festival in Park City. There had been occasional talk in previous years that the festival’s organizers were considering other locations.

"Sundance has been a terrific tenant, very easy to get along with," says Rory Murphy, the Silver Star developer.

He says Sundance’s rent is set below the market price but he declines to provide details.

Park City officials and history lovers have long tried to protect the city’s older buildings. The renovation for Sundance was touted as one of the city’s most ambitious, alongside turning what was once a school into the Park City Library and Education Center and redoing another school into what became City Hall.

At the open house, Hal Compton, a Park City historian, said people who worked inside during the mining era would be bewildered but happy with the renovation.

"I think they would be pleased the basic buildings are preserved but they’d be shocked with what happened," he said.