Guest opinion: City Hall has one chance to get arts and culture district right
Question: Park City owns 5-plus acres of land, smack dab in the center of our community, surrounded by many existing amenities. What would you suggest they build?
• Would you support building 150 units of affordable housing to create a new urban neighborhood?
• Would you support a project that embraces our artists and culture?
My answer is “Yes” to both questions. The land is currently slated as the arts and culture district, but it can be so much more. We can fulfill multiple agendas on this valuable property, while furthering all of the city’s Critical Priorities (Housing, Social Equity, Energy and Transportation).
The district currently envisioned would deliver 50 units (one building) of affordable housing, with the balance (four buildings) dedicated to creative spaces/studios, performance venues, food court building, etc. City Council recently received its price tag for this vision, and the total tops $100 million (note: Sundance Institute and Kimball Art Center are self-funding their own anchor complexes). In addition to the city’s mixed and thinly stretched funding for its own project, there are even questions whether the anchors can or will raise the funds to purchase and build out their spaces.
Hopefully they will build, but given the city’s $100 million price tag, there is plenty of uncertainty and lots to talk about. After three years of driving a singular concept without a clear price or overwhelming public support, reality has hit hard, and the city should now consider alternatives. A new vision is needed that makes good on both its arts and culture promises to the two anchor institutions, and its Critical Priority promises to its residents. A “win-win” solution would be creating an art-centric, dynamic village, full of the very locals who have always provided the fabric of Park City that we have watched erode as good people get priced out of living here.
A thoughtfully designed village can serve both masters. Build those same artist/maker studios, small performance venues and diverse local retail along the ground level of four to five buildings, with two to three stories of housing above all that. Now add small plazas, sidewalk cafes and gathering spaces filled with local artwork, some live music, maybe street performances, and you have a bustling, sustainable, art-centric, local neighborhood.
If the (unmentioned) goal is to draw in guests year-round, consider the success of neighborhoods like the New York City East Village, Harvard Square and Haight-Ashbury, among others I’m sure you know of. These types of villages have become synonymous with the cultural blending of local residents and businesses, a vibrant place to live, and are known for drawing visitors.
A development like this will remove many cars from our commuter traffic, and further reduce carbon output as residents walk/bike/bus to utilize the wide variety of amenities (grocery stores, banks, bars, restaurants, laundromat, hardware store, 7-11, IMH Instacare, trails, City Park and more) already established around the perimeter. It will further our social equity goals by providing 150 units of accessible housing for a new group of diverse locals. It will celebrate not only our creative locals, but the city’s own creativity in designing the village itself.
What about the cost, you say? I don’t have that expertise, but at $100 million for an arts and culture district that does little to further our Critical Priorities, it is time to consider and price out alternatives like this. There are options here other than going it alone. The city can form partnerships with investors/developers, or it can pursue a combination of the two. If the price of land is a major stumbling block for privately built, profitable affordable housing, the city has the perfect piece of land to offer. Additionally, the land can be subdivided, allowing different architects to apply their own distinct feels, contributing to the creative vibe.
On Wednesday, March 31, at 4:30 p.m., City Council will hold a special Zoom meeting dedicated to hearing what you think. Please attend and vocalize your opinion. We need to get this right … your voice matters.
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Diane Thompson writes that City Hall should not be involved in financing or building an arts and culture district. Instead, it should sell the land to a developer to pursue the project.