Younger Parkites worry about housing, jobs |

Younger Parkites worry about housing, jobs

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Real estate prices and long-term rentals in Park City are typically the most expensive in the state.

And that is one of the problems young people have when attempting to forge out a life in the city, some of the people involved in a panel discussion said on Tuesday night at the Santy Auditorium.

In an event that covered a wide range of topics, younger panelists, some in their 20s, and older ones talked about living in Park City and the city’s future as a place for younger people. The event, sponsored by KPCW radio, drew a crowd of mixed ages. Many in the audience appeared to be older than the people the event was designed for, though.

The event was held as Park City appears to be on the cusp of a significant generational change, as people who moved to the city in the 1970s and 1980s begin considering retirement and as younger people start to take on more prominent roles in government, business and the nonprofit sector.

Housing has long been among the greatest challenges facing younger people living in Park City. There are some lower-priced places set aside for the work force, but Park City remains a tight housing market.

Panelist Blanca Gohary, the co-owner of the Prospector restaurant Good Karma, was especially passionate as she talked about the housing situation. She said the backbone of Park City is the blue-collar worker as she addressed what she sees as the lack of housing options. People work two or three jobs to earn enough money to pay rent in Park City, where they live in tight quarters with their families, Gohary said. Katie Wright, who works for the Park City Foundation and was among the younger members of the panel, mentioned she lived in work force housing.

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Meanwhile, others spent time discussing the Park City-area economy, which has been driven by the closely related industries of tourism and construction since the 1970s. Adam Strachan, an attorney and a member of the Park City Planning Commission, was one of the representatives of the younger side of Park City. He acknowledged the tourism-heavy economy in his comments, asking whether the community wants to shift from that sort of makeup.

"You do have to create your own opportunities," Strachan said about people working in an economy like Park City’s.

The moderator of the panel, a consultant who works in the field of social and economic diversity in changing cities, noted that there is not a significant amount of venture capital flowing into Park City and said the ski industry’s role in the local economy could be diminished within a generation if the climate warms.

Robert McNulty, who led the discussion, noted the housing issue in Park City and wondered whether Park City is a true community or a "collection of concierges." He criticized the number of real estate showcases on Main Street in storefronts that other sorts of businesses could occupy, said Park City needs more places for people to gather and declared that Latinos are underrepresented at nearly every level of civic life in Park City. He suggested a brain trust be formed to consider an economic platform that complements the resort industry.

Some other highlights from the event included:

  • Bill Coleman, long a leading real estate figure in Park City, talking about arriving in the city in the early 1970s. He said he is not apologetic about the growth of Park City, pointing to a strong school system and the numerous not-for-profit groups. But he acknowledged that a "broad spectrum of housing is missing." He commended the Bonanza Park developers, who anticipate offering housing for a variety of income levels.
  • government officials in Park City and Summit County saying that the mix of housing options remains tilted against rank-and-file workers. Don Sargent, the community development director at the County Courthouse, said Summit County has made strides in work force housing, but more progress is needed. Tom Eddington, City Hall’s planning director, agreed when talking about Park City, mentioning more so-called move-up housing is needed in the city.