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Arts and Culture District Takes Shape as Funding Questions Loom

Park City Municipal

The proposed Park City Arts and Culture District is slowly taking shape. The district was the topic of this week’s Park City Summit County Arts Council meeting where city staff took questions about the vision for the project, as well as where the money to build it is coming from.


Thursday’s meeting of the Park City Summit County Arts Council saw presentations from industry experts on similar projects around the country and what Park City could implement here.


Deputy City Manager David Everitt said one thing it will not be, is a place for Park City’s wealthiest residents and visitors to go shopping.


“This cannot be a series of, you know, basically, gallery spaces for people with a ton of money,” said Everitt. “That is not what this space is about at the end of the day. This is about a place for people to come in and make things and do things and see people making and doing things and interface with them who are the community.” 


The district is set to be built on a five-acre parcel at the corner of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive with a price tag of $70 million.


Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin next spring, with an estimated opening date of November 2023. 


Everitt said the district is to be a place for local creators to work. Art studios, recording spaces for music and podcasts, as well as affordable housing are all in the plans. 


Affordability is at the top of everyone’s minds. Skyrocketing real estate numbers price many local creatives out of working, much less living, in Park City. Everitt said this problem is not lost on his staff or city council as they move forward with the project.


“I was told by a developer yesterday that property that is adjacent to the resort base here in Park City is actually selling right now at $1,500 a square foot,” he said. “So, we have a bit of an affordability challenge in Park City and I think that has been also very central to the council’s desire for what happens at this district. Focusing on affordability, focusing on it being a place for the people of Park City to make it their own. That’s been a central focus.”


Another challenge to be tackled by the city is funding for the project. $70 million is a steep price tag and councilmember Steve Joyce expressed his worry about the capitol needed for the project at last week’s city council meeting. 


He said with so much unknown about the coming months as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city would be wise to have a concrete plan and timetable in place before approving any part of it. 


“I have some real concerns about the Art and Culture District financing in general,” Joyce said. “You know, I just keep seeing things that worry me if we decide for whatever reason, whether it’s financing or our partners aren’t ready to move and therefore we’re not ready to move or whatever. I don’t want to have approved a bunch of expenses and gotten people started on things that may or may not happen in a timely fashion.”  


The city is funding the project through several sources, including a 1% transient room tax (TRT) paid by overnight guests to the city. According to a presentation to city council in July, TRT revenue is projected to take a $1 million hit in fiscal year 2021 and is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025. Everitt said on Thursday that this year has made the city take another look at TRT revenue.


“Yeah, I think that at one point, the city was thinking ‘you know, transient room tax is just going to keep going pretty much straight up,’ and so it was a really attractive source, and so, you know, we’ve been brought a little bit back to the reality in the last year around what transient room tax is going to look like,” said Everitt.


City council is expected to have an in-depth discussion of the Arts and Culture District at their meeting next week.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.