Tom Clyde: Big plans looming
For the most part, Park City is built. There aren’t enough vacant lots left to matter anymore. What you see is pretty much what you get, and despite my skepticism about growth in general, things have worked out pretty well around here. The only development left in town is the huge stuff that has been on the backburner for a generation. It’s stuff I never thought would happen because of the complexity of building it, and the costs involved. It never seemed to make sense. The Treasure Hill project was purchased by the city to put an end to that one.
These projects have been in the planning stage for years, getting dusted off and updated when the market is strong (or completely insane like it is now), then folded up and stuck back on the shelf when the inevitable bust comes. No dirt was moved in the process. But they are lined up now, three monsters in town, the Tech Center at Kimball Junction, the potential Hideout incursion and Mayflower across the county line. That’s a whole lot of proposing; I’m still skeptical that it will turn into a whole lot of building.
Alterra Mountain Company, owner of Deer Valley Resort, announced its plans to remodel Snow Park. Before the plague, there was a plan to remodel the venerable lodge. It was scheduled for last summer, then the world stopped. But it’s back. Only this time, the remodel of Snow Park includes 15 acres of the parking lots converted into a new base village area. The 1977 master plan on Deer Valley included 210 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the parking lots. Given that the site is 15 acres, that’s pretty low density.
The press release said that Alterra was “re-imagining” the parking lots and base area with “architecture inspired by the mountains,” and would bring their skiers a world-class base area. It also said they would break ground a year from now. Nobody gets re-imagining on that scale through the Park City Planning Commission in a year, especially with what else is on the docket ahead of them.
The PEG project at the Park City Mountain parking lots continues to grind forward. The whole base area of Park City Mountain needs to be re-imagined, and the current proposal doesn’t show a lot of imagination. It wasn’t particularly charming when it was built in the 1970s and ’80s, and has not aged well. Nothing being proposed on the parking lots cures what’s already built. That one will be difficult because they are stuck in a kind of wormhole between the city’s dream of a car-free future with world-class bus stops, and the reality that there is no way for 10,000 guests and employees to get on the mountain without a lot of them driving from Salt Lake or elsewhere. The PEG plan needs to involve off-site parking and shuttle systems.
The arts and culture district seems to be on the fast track. Approval should be easy since the developer can grant its own approval (exactly the same trick everybody finds so odious about Hideout — a town created by the developer to write his own zoning). But the budget keeps expanding, and roughly 30% of it is supposed to come from sources still to be determined. We used to do bake sales in front of the post office to raise money for local causes. That’s a lot of cupcakes.
It’s hard to know which of these will break ground first. PEG and Deer Valley both have existing master plan approvals. PEG is trying to renegotiate theirs, which seems to put them at a disadvantage. Deer Valley hasn’t released enough detail yet to know whether it is materially different from the 1977 plan. I hope we have learned something about transportation, parking and retail habits in the last 40 years to make some updates. The skiing experience has changed over a generation. The original plan was based on the idea that Main Street was struggling to stay alive, and didn’t need any competition from commercial in Deer Valley. That no longer seems to be the case, so maybe revisions are reasonable. That will slow things down, and ground breaking a year from now seems optimistic.
The arts and culture district ought to slide through the self-approval process, though it’s not a sure bet that the city will approve its own plan. But the proposal is a Christmas tree of stuff, with something for everybody. There will be a lot of public push and pull between affordable housing, transit, parking, art studio spaces, the expectations of Kimball Art Center and Sundance and perhaps even financial reality. I suspect it will get bogged down while everybody tries to get 10 slices out of an eight-slice pie while getting somebody else to pay for it.
So now’s the time to place your bet on which one turns the first shovel of dirt, and which one goes back on the shelf. The next year is going to be interesting.
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.
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