Guest opinion: Tech Center proposal is the last chance for a sustainable neighborhood in the Basin
The current Tech Center proposal put forward by Dakota Pacific Real Estate is the best and last opportunity for a forward-thinking, sustainable neighborhood in Snyderville Basin. Its elements of accessibility, connectivity and affordability are crucial for Park City’s workforce and the compact, mixed-use nature provides a slew of benefits many overlook.
It’s no surprise the 2008 proposal has brought empty promises. We’re lucky to have an attractive visitors center flanked by stable tenants like Mountain Top Physical Therapy and the locally grown fortress of Skullcandy. But let’s not wager that other high-paying employers will settle in a single-use, auto-oriented environment anytime soon — especially given the pandemic-induced momentum toward remote working. Research parks are dead in our nation’s biggest metropolises and laughable in smaller communities like Park City. The soul-sucking parking craters they create are incredibly expensive and wasteful; they are a mistake of decades past and the nemesis of the 24-hour community hub that Kimball Junction aspires to be.
What our community deserves in this prime location is a complete neighborhood with high-quality multi-family living that augments and integrates with greater Kimball Junction. This is central to the proposal, which provides welcoming public plazas that our community will flock to for authentic entertainment like Mountain Town Music and opens up strategic locations for small-scale retail, restaurants and services we can all enjoy. It offers a serious opportunity for establishing innovative companies along S.R. 224 where three Skullcandy-sized office buildings could diversify the regional economy. And most importantly, this transit-oriented community checks all the boxes for a healthy and livable neighborhood where our workforce, seniors and vulnerable families deserve to live and thrive.
Open space tops priorities in Summit County and our leaders work tremendously hard to keep enormous parcels untouched in perpetuity. But the fixation on this topic in this case is invalid. Once approved, this project will actually preserve more land than the existing entitlement (yes, the 316 acres originally purchased remain protected and additional open space is incorporated in the site plan) while also sustaining the public transit our community desperately needs to mitigate traffic and congestion. That’s a perk we shouldn’t turn away from.
Congestion isn’t new to Kimball Junction. Limited route alternatives and a growing number of visitors and residents who are reluctant to walk, bike or use public transit have exacerbated delays throughout the Basin for years. But staying the course on the Tech Center entitlement or blocking development at this multimodal location altogether will do nothing to solve travel inconveniences.
The Snyderville Basin will finally have an ample concentration of working-class families, teachers and service employees to support a reliable transit system. Injected ridership of this magnitude is our only hope for improved frequency and could justify dedicated lanes, which should convince other Parkites to ditch their cars and enjoy our free world-class buses.
This project isn’t without opportunities for improvement. Increased flexibility in land uses will ensure the neighborhood is responsive to market forces, a stronger affordable housing component is worthy, and another hotel is questionable. But Dakota Pacific has already adjusted to community concerns and appears committed to working diligently with local stakeholders to put forward an equity-driven smart growth project that all Parkites value.
There’s no better location for a project like this in the entire county. Please take a moment to educate yourself on this proposal before jumping to conclusions about irreversible congestion and embezzled open space protection. Continued opposition, rather than offering tweaks of improvement, doesn’t mean the demand for well-connected, affordable living disappears. Saying “no” to this opportunity will simply deflect the need elsewhere in a less livable, unsustainable, sprawled-out fashion. Then we will really have a traffic problem.
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Skier, mountaineer, environmental activist and Park City resident Caroline Gleich writes that Andy Beerman’s commitment to the climate is vital to Park City’s future.