Tom Clyde: Top 10 uses for a vacant movie studio
And a happy Pioneer Day to you, too. The 24th of July has never quite caught on in Park City, as if we needed one more holiday around here. But it’s a big deal elsewhere in Utah, and as you may have discovered, it is just one more random closure of the liquor stores that you have to explain to tourists.
I don’t get into town very often this time of year, and when I do, it’s not really in town. It’s mostly an emergency Home Depot run. So when I actually went into Park City proper the other day, and got a good look at the new movie studio, it was quite a shock. I thought I had come to grips with the size of it, and then all of a sudden it’s doubled and then there are lean-to things getting added to the sides. That place is huge. And about as ugly as a building can get.
To be fair, the nicest house in town looked enormous and terrible in the plywood box stage of construction. The movie studio is a pile of Styrofoam Lego brick concrete forms. It will never look worse than it does right now, raw and unfinished. But it probably won’t ever look much better. Slathering it with beige stucco is not going to turn it into Versailles. No matter how many trees they plant around it, none of us will live long enough for them to cover it up. It makes the original plan for a big gas station and convenience store on that site seem almost quaint.
For many years, the commercial cluster at Kimball Junction held the trophy for worst planning failure in Summit County. That was not only the result of many deliberate decisions in a long, public process, but it’s been remodeled a couple of times to "fix" it. There are enough roundabouts to make you toss your cookies if you are trying to get from Chevron to Great Clips. What ever happened to square blocks, through streets, and normal intersections? But Kimball Junction has been dislodged. The new winner is obviously the movie studio. Planning by lawsuit and special legislative favors always leads to dubious outcomes.
State law doesn’t let the municipalities consider economic viability when processing applications. We get to make our own mistakes. So this albatross will get built, and who knows, they might get a movie or two made there before economic reality sets in. Ugly as it is, we should learn to love it because we are likely to end up owning it when it gets sold for back taxes a few years from now. So it would be good to start considering alternative uses for it.
PCMR’s Woodward camp project would be a great fit there, leaving the existing resort intact under whatever ownership structure emerges from the ashes of that fiasco. If you haven’t followed that one, Woodward is kind of a university of skateboard, snowboard and mountain bike tricks. Yeah, I know. But it really works in other similar markets. The ceilings are high enough to get some serious air on the ramps.
The City is talking about building another ice sheet. Are the floors in the movie studio the right dimensions for a hockey rink? If not, maybe we can convince the builder to make a few changes now while it’s easy to do, just so the inevitable conversion is a little easier. It’s actually bigger than an ice sheet (it’s bigger than Greenland!), so there’s also room for another field house, and maybe an indoor stadium for the high school. With room left over for boat storage for the Jordanelle marinas.
It would make a great mini-storage place, though there seems to be a real boom in the stuff mausoleum business. Maybe the market for that much more isn’t any better than the market for movie studios in a town of 7,000 people, er, I mean 7,000 aspiring stars. I’m not sure if it would hold water, but it’s close enough to the City’s water treatment plant that it would be a convenient reservoir if you do a little caulking around the doors. All that Styrofoam will keep the water cool, too.
This is only the beginning. In the City’s grand master plan to fight against sprawl, there is a sprawling residential subdivision behind the studio, and then the studio site has sprawling approvals for hotels and other commercial there. So if you like Kimball Junction, you’re going to love what they’ve done to Quinn’s.
With what Wasatch County has approved around Jordanelle, our little mountain town now extends from Summit Park all the way to Wanship and Kamas. When did we decide to just give up and let it rip?
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.