Tom Clyde: Development daze
The big news in town is that Park City has decided to build a new Senior Center on the east side of Park Avenue, near the skateboard park. The City Council has been trying to pry the seniors out of the existing building on Woodside Avenue so they can build affordable housing there instead. The Senior Center occupies a relatively large parcel of land, and it would accommodate lots of apartments if only the old folks would move their canasta game somewhere else.
The seniors are having none of it. They have a lease on the building and have made it pretty clear they aren’t budging. Not even being right next to the skateboard park was enough to win them over.
The new building would be a temporary solution. The long game is to pawn the problem off on the county, and get the county to build a new senior center that serves all of the West Side of the county, somewhere at Kimball Junction. Until the plague passes, it kind of doesn’t matter, since nobody is going to the senior center in person these days. The smart money is on the seniors. They don’t have a whole lot else to do these days and seem to enjoy getting in the way of the young whippersnappers running things these days.
The Woodside apartment project is small fry compared to the proposed development at the Park City Mountain Resort parking lots. There has been development planned there from the very beginning, and the current approval is 30 years old. It’s the most desirable location in town, and the hardest to build on. The cost of replacing the surface parking with enclosed parking structures, above or below ground, is so high that the land itself has little value. For a long time, the question was how much the resort would have to pay somebody to take it off their hands, given the replacement parking obligation.
A new developer is involved now, and has proposed some changes to the old plan. The underground parking lands in several different locations, not interconnected, so day skiers will have to shop around to find a spot. Nothing is detailed enough to know if there will be signs that say which of the catacombs has available parking, or if it will be a random search method. There are 1,500 parking spaces, which sounds like a lot, but in the end won’t be enough. With the high cost of building them, we should assume parking won’t be free, so everybody will park at the grocery store instead.
There are a bunch of employee housing units included. I’m not sure that putting employee housing there makes as much sense as putting expensive hotel rooms there. The resort has a lot of land where they could put employee units, saving the “beachfront” location for guests. But the housing needs to be somewhere, and having it walkable helps with the overall traffic mess.
The project will be built in phases, with completion estimated in January of 2026 if there aren’t any economic disruptions, plagues or collapses in the travel industry. Nothing like that ever happens. There are only two roundabouts in the project. They could probably increase the odds of approval by adding some more. We do like our roundabouts in these parts.
The existing base at PCMR is really a mess. From the 1970s through the 1990s, development parcels were sold off without a cohesive plan. It’s not at all unusual to be putting my boots on in the parking lot and have somebody ask me “Where’s the mountain?” Big as the new project is, it is being built around the existing problems, which are owned by somebody else. The buildings that dump icicles on pedestrians who can’t figure out how to get to the ticket office will still be dumping icicles. Shadow Ridge will still be, um, “institutional” in appearance. There are no clear lines of sight from the roads or pathways that logically pull you to the base of the lifts. Dumpsters will still have to be rolled out to the street by hand because the building design didn’t plan for garbage trucks.
It would be hard for the new development to make it worse or less functional. There’s a lot of concern about the total density. I have my doubts that there is really demand for that many additional hotel rooms, and maybe some of the non-slopeside hotel properties won’t be able to compete. I hope the skier traffic doesn’t increase. Things feel pretty much at capacity now (though compared to Colorado, we’re still underused).
Anyway, as it winds through the process, I hope things don’t get too bogged down over the width of bus turnout lanes and overall density. I hope they really go to work on trying to get an appealing, functional base for the resort that ties all the separate pieces together. It’s hard without nuking what’s there now, but in a perfect world, that’s the starting point.
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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There are several major development proposals looming in Park City. Tom Clyde says the time is now to “place your bet on which one turns the first shovel of dirt, and which one goes back on the shelf.”