Guest opinion: Park City should sell land and let a developer build arts district

Diane Thompson
Park Meadows

I am not averse to the concept of an arts and cultural component to Park City’s offerings. I am concerned about the city’s funding for this project, or rather, the lack thereof. Regarding the planning and operation of the proposed arts district, complete with much-needed housing, cultural events, etc., I urge everyone to access the “Park City Cultural Facilities and District Feasibility Study,” which is available on in the agenda documents for the March 31 City Council meeting.

While reading the packet (40 pages), the illustrations of the proposal are quite beautiful. However, the pages that struck me as the most important are pages 37-39, which address the budget and economics. On page 39, the economic impact shows a jobs impact of 41.7 jobs. Page 38 is most insightful since the Base Year Annual Operating Budget projects a deficit of $866,595.00 — a deficit. These figures are estimates of $1,231,405 in income and $2,098,000 in expenses, leaving a deficit of $866,595. There isn’t one single proposed function/program/etc. that projects to turn a profit except “Dance Studios,” which estimates an annual profit of $2,500. This deficit projection could easily top $1 million annually. I did not see any proposal for where the money to cover this deficit will come from. This deficit doesn’t even include the expenditures for building the city-owned facilities in the first place. Park City has already spent $19.5 million for the land.

While listening to and watching the recent Zoom public hearing about the project, I strongly concur with Dean Berrett’s and Bill Pidwell’s fact-based concerns. I don’t think the city should be involved in funding/building/financing any construction. A guest editorial from March 31 states that Kimball Arts Center has all the funds it needs to build and maintain its facility, has already given the city $500,000 toward the purchase of its portion of the land, and will have a “robust capital campaign to support a 30,000 square foot art space…” Kimball is depending on fundraising to build its facility. Based on my computations, the city paid approximately $3.714 million per acre (43,500 square feet/acre) for the land. With a proposed 30,000 square-foot building, I am assuming Kimball will need an acre of land. Is Kimball paying the city $3.714 million for its parcel? I assume Sundance Institute is comparably financially solvent, is purchasing a comparable needed acre, and is planning to fund and build its own facility.

According to a Park Record article from December, the city projects to recoup only $6.8 million from the sale of land to Kimball and Sundance, less than the city’s purchase price of $3.714 million per acre or roughly $7.4 million for two acres (I haven’t seen any figures as to the exact acreage each nonprofit is purchasing). Estimating income of approximately $6.8 million from selling 2+/- acres to Sundance and Kimball still leaves approximately $12.4 million from the purchase price for the city to recoup, and the city can’t keep raising the transient room tax to pay for its project. Furthermore, the city is estimating an $88.4 million cost for its construction project (and we all know how those bids only increase). What source is providing this funding? My suggestion is that Park City sell the land to a developer who is aware of the importance of an arts district and who has the experience to develop the land such that it will make a profit or, at the very least, cover all the expenses. Let an experienced developer build/rent/sell the affordable housing. Let the developer assume the financial responsibility for this project, not the city, and not, eventually, the taxpayers.

If anyone has more concrete figures than my estimations, please furnish them to the public.

One more item: Where is the parking and where is the traffic mitigation plan? Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard are already on overload during the ski season.


A better idea for ski season traffic

Another ski season is approaching. And with it, the weekday convergence of school and industry traffic that routinely turns Kearns Boulevard into a parking lot each morning and each afternoon.  

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