Swede Alley Plaza offers another reason to hang out on Main Street
June 30, 2015
Swede Alley is becoming gentrified — and we mean that as a compliment. On Friday the city is expected to unveil the latest addition to a series of streetscape improvements on and around Main Street — the Swede Alley Plaza.
On Tuesday, the concrete pad at the base of the Marsac stairs, tucked strategically between the Old Town transit center and the China Bridge parking structure, was still engulfed in clouds of dust and construction equipment exhaust. But the outline of an appealing gathering spot was beginning to emerge with old-fashioned street lamps, terraced flower beds, benches and a historic rock wall complete with an interpretive plaque.
When finished it will be a far cry from the Swede Alley of yesteryear, whose chief features were dilapidated shacks, muddy ditches and trash cans.
The plaza, which displaces only six downtown parking places, will offer visitors and locals a place to meet up with friends, read their mail (or The Park Record), watch the sun set before dinner or chill during special events like the Kimball Arts Festival.
Its design is flexible. The four short-term spaces on the south end of the plaza offer quick access to the liquor store and post office but can be closed off to extend the plaza for a small event. The same goes for the parking spots on the north end.
More importantly, the project includes a wide sidewalk with a clear parking entrance that remedies the stretch of Swede Alley where pedestrians took their chances walking behind a bank of parked cars that could back out at any moment. Certainly, those who remember stumbling in the dark across the Swede Alley frontier before the parking garage was built will appreciate the improvements.
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The plaza joins a daisy chain of very visible improvements up and down Main Street. The popular walkway inhabited by Franz the bronze bear is now festooned with handsome iron arches wound with strings of festive lights — an artistic red carpet for visitors making their way to Main Street from the transit center. The Clock Plaza also has a new look including a sweeping stairway that provides another graceful transition between Swede Alley and Main Street. Improvements to Miners Park, a little further up and on the west side of Main Street, are also due to wrap up this week, in time to impress Fourth of July revelers. The old crumbling sidewalks connecting the pocket parks and businesses have also been replaced giving the entire street a much needed facelift.
In all, the improvements invite Main Street guests to leave their cars behind, take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the cool mountain air, and explore parts of the historic district they may not have noticed before. If the amenities succeed in enticing people to spend more time mingling in Park City, the investment will have been worthwhile.