The Park Record editorial, November 13-16, 2010 |

The Park Record editorial, November 13-16, 2010

Inventory of historic homes is not enough

Two years ago, Park City officials hired a consultant to create a detailed inventory of the city’s remaining historic structures. That effort was an important step toward protecting the town’s fragile historic fabric, but without a commitment to use the list as a tool to prevent demolition it is an empty gesture.

Last Monday a modest building at 657 Park Avenue was razed but the dust caused by its demolition is still swirling.

The demolition was approved by a city staffer who said the structure had undergone so many remodels it had lost its historic significance. But, according to the city’s own inventory, that was not the case.

At the time of the inventory the alterations were deemed "minor," its general condition was listed as "good" and it was classified as a "significant site."

One citizen was outraged enough by the loss of the structure to bring it to the city council’s attention on Thursday. His commitment to the town’s heritage is laudable and his activism on behalf of preservation is even more essential since the city disbanded the former Historic District Commission and replaced it with the less powerful Historic Preservation Board (HPB).

Instead, the decision went to a staffer who may have been influenced by the current property owner who wants to build a similar but significantly larger structure on the lot. While saying he was heartbroken about the decision to destroy the existing building, the owner claimed the foundation was too far gone to fix. That may be true but he will also save a lot of time and money by building from scratch rather than having to renovate an old structure.

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At the very least, both the city staffer and the owner would have benefited from consulting an impartial panel of experts like the HPB.

Interestingly the demolished building stood next door to one of the town’s crowning historic renovation projects: the High West Distillery. That site used to house a pair of buildings, the Watts’ home and the National Garage. After years of painstaking planning and reconstruction that the city held to rigid standards, the two charming landmarks were joined and now serve as a lively landmark along Old Town’s entryway.

Unfortunately the neighboring parcel was not so fortunate.

Whether or not 657 Park Avenue could have been saved, we hope the sight of a historic home reduced to rubble alongside a stunning renovation project will galvanize City Hall and local citizens to ensure the Historic Sites Inventory is considered more than just a piece of paper and that it doesn’t continue to shrink.