New design for Main Street project flies under the radar |

New design for Main Street project flies under the radar

On Friday, City Hall staffers will accept public input about a developer’s plan to convert the site that currently houses the Kimball Art Center into a mixed-use commercial and residential project. The meeting is anticipated to be much more sedate than when earlier designs, solicited by the Kimball Art Center board, were presented as part of a widely publicized architectural design contest.

At issue is whether the new design complies with Park City’s historic district guidelines. It is the same question that dogged the Kimball Art Center as it tried to create a landmark edifice while also fitting in among the vestiges of an old mining town.

Unlike the winning architect’s eye-catching proposal, or even the second modified design, the new developer’s intention is to blend in, and so far the renderings have been successful in not raising eyebrows. As proposed, the project, including a 2,500-square-foot addition on top of the existing historic structure, does indeed mirror the surrounding high rises that now line the lower half of Main Street.

But even if the proposal is deemed appropriate, it will be just that. Not marvelous, or noteworthy. And its future uses are not likely to grab attention or drive art-minded patrons to Main Street. It will be just another big building designed to capitalize on Old Town’s ambiance.

The Art Center played a high-stakes hand when it launched a worldwide contest to design an ambitious expansion. In soliciting public input it fanned fierce passions about both art and tradition and, once aroused, vocal support and opposition surrounding the winning design reverberated throughout the city.

In the meantime, from its vantage point above Main Street, City staffers insisted on a narrow interpretation of Old Town’s design guidelines, turning down the KAC proposal. The height and materials became flash points, emblematic of a deeper debate about the effectiveness of the city’s historic district rules.

Unfortunately, the City and the Art Center were not able to negotiate long enough to find a way to harness those passions into a common purpose. While Main Street may gain a handsome but innocuous commercial and residential project, it has lost a chance to keep a vibrant cultural center pulsing in the center of an otherwise vibrant city.

LCC Properties Group’s design for the Kimball Residences & Shops will be available for public review at City Hall Friday at 2 p.m. Park City Planning Director Thomas Eddington and Preservation Planner Anya Grahn will be on hand to take public comments.

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