Guest opinion: Parkites say they want boldness. The arts and culture district is a chance to walk the talk.
To meet cost realities in the current economic and cultural environment, the arts and culture district needs a “big rethink.” It needs to be “big” in that it examines and rejects some of the prior assumptions and actions of City Hall and calls on leadership for some courage. Some of these are as follows:
• Local artists need more accessible venue support than affordable housing support. To the extent they need affordable housing support, it does not have to be at the district.
• The district cost has been bloated by high-cost amenities. Eliminate them and replace them with low-cost amenities.
• Transit evolution will make the district a much more logical and useful transit hub than the Marsac transit hub. There is a hidden opportunity here for affordable housing.
• It is inevitable that Main Street will become mostly, if not wholly, pedestrian only. View the district as the primary access gateway to Main Street. District anchors and tenants will love that.
As the Park City government gets out of mass transit beyond its borders, regional transit will bring riders in on S.R. 224 and S.R. 248. It needs an accessible and robust target transit hub, and the Marsac hub is not that. A much better hub can be built at the district, and it can also play well with peak transit for special events. It is also near the bus barn, where regional transit will likely contract its bus maintenance. Expand and repurpose the Main Street Trolley to be a high-frequency shuttle from the hub to Main Street. Later, when Main Street is pedestrian only, operate a Cabriolet-like people mover from the hub to Old Town. Noise and right-of-way will be minimal issues as the route can be almost entirely over public land. Terminate it near the Town Lift to make it skier friendly. Its uniqueness will make it a tourism amenity.
Eliminate affordable housing from the district, which will massively reduce costs and make space for the much cheaper transit hub. Because the Marsac transit hub would now be surplus, donate or deeply discount its land to a developer to build deed-restricted affordable housing. Perhaps incorporate the Flagpole parking lot. This approach makes such a project profitable for the private sector. Affordable housing is now a consequence of the arts district but not part of its cost. And with a downtown location, it is a centerpiece of social equity.
Meanwhile back at the district, don’t mess with the anchors, the Sundance Institute and Kimball Art Center. Provide space and infrastructure for “food truck row,” which will become a destination as multiple food trucks lease a footprint to gain access to all that foot traffic. City Hall will have to find the courage to see this as an asset to the city’s culinary scene, rather than a threat. This will also relieve the anchors of having to provide food service. Also, build an amphitheater for outdoor performances with capacity up to 500. Park City Institute, Deer Valley and Park City Film can undoubtedly find ways to use it to enhance their performance offerings, as well as the obvious synergies with Sundance and Kimball programs. Both “food truck row” and the amphitheater are pretty cheap to build.
Any plan to save the arts and culture district is going to require rethinking, backtracking and boldness. Parkites have stated that boldness is their middle name, however, and this is the chance to walk the talk.
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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.