Tom Clyde: Rescued from the cultural wasteland | ParkRecord.com

Tom Clyde: Rescued from the cultural wasteland

More Dogs on Main

By Tom Clyde
Park Record columnist

One of the great joys of living here is knowing that, when you least expect it, local government will step in and provide a solution to a problem you didn't even know you had.

Can't find a parking place? No worries, we'll provide you with a free taxi service or an electric bike. It's a wonderful thing to see. And it's happening again.

All these years, it seems we've been suffering a brutish existence in a cultural wasteland, bereft of any of the refinements that make life worth living. Aside from more concerts than you can possibly attend, 20 art galleries, museums, the film series, Sundance, Kimball Art Center, Egyptian Theatre, Eccles Center, piles of scrap iron in front of every City building, and too many others to name, there's barely any art or culture to be found around here. It's just dreadful.

Well, not to worry, my benighted friends. The City is about to launch what will be a World-Class Arts and Culture District. On 5 acres, shared with 400 parking spaces and a transit center. Our arts district will be somewhat compact, but it will still be great.

All these years, it seems we’ve been suffering a brutish existence in a cultural wasteland, bereft of any of the refinements that make life worth living.

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The plan is to spend $19 million to buy 5 acres west of Bonanza Drive and redevelop the car wash into a cultural hub. It's not much now, and aside from eliminating half of the gas stations in town, there's not much there that will be missed.

Most of the existing businesses can relocate to other spaces in town, and there's nothing historic about the sheet metal warehouse buildings. The Maverick store has been a cultural hub for a part of the community that doesn't want $7 coffee in a hipster setting. That probably can't be replaced, and Anaya's market is probably toast. But it's for the arts, so get over it.

The plan, which has clearly been in the works for a long time, is for Kimball Art Center and Sundance to become the anchors in the neighborhood. Kimball has been camped out in the former mortuary since it sold its Heber Avenue location after the City rejected its Jenga-inspired addition. That proposed building was actually pretty cool; it just didn't fit on Main Street. It would fit here. Sundance would move into a new building in the Arts District. Each of those is about 30,000 to 40,000 square feet. That's a lot of arts administration.

It's less clear what the rest of the property will be used for. The initial proposal seems to be that the City will be the developer on the balance of the property, building and then renting space to tenants who are in the arts and culture business and to nonprofits. It should go a long way toward filling the cultural void that many of us have been oblivious to for so long.

To pay for all of this, the City is proposing a 1 percent transient room tax. That is on top of the existing 3 percent room tax levied by the County and a 0.32 percent statewide room tax. Add that to the general sales tax, transit tax, restaurant tax, and it begins to add up. When the visitor checks out of his hotel room, it's going to cost more than he or she had counted on. But locals won't pay for it.

We have a long tradition of living beyond our means. We have great amenities such as the library, city and county recreation centers, ice arena, and schools that are far beyond the means of a community this size.

The property tax in Utah gives primary residents, who use all the services, a discount of about 45 percent on their property taxes. The second homeowners pay the full rate. It seems odd to tax the houses that don't put any kids in the schools at a higher rate. Maybe even unfair. But the second home owners can't vote here.

It doesn't end with property tax. Restaurant meals are subject to a higher sales tax. While we all eat out, people travelling and staying in hotel rooms eat out more, so they pay more of the restaurant tax. Then, just for good measure, there are taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars that locals don't pay. So the visitors are subsidizing the locals' lavish lifestyle in places such as Park City and Moab where visitors exceed the number of residents. At some point, all the nickel and dime stuff begins to add up.

The Arts District, which notably doesn't have a cutesy name like BoPa, yet, may prove to be a good idea. But I'm skeptical of the City being the driving force in the local real estate market. When you add up all the real estate deals the City is involved in, the City is the biggest developer in town, buying at the top of a market that feels a bit bubbly. I'm not sure that's a good idea.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.