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Park City Council Supports Future Arts District But Is Divided Over Timing

Park City Municipal


The Park City City Council held two meetings this week to discuss the future arts and culture district. KPCW’s Sean Higgins reports that although there is broad support for the idea of an arts district in Park CIty, councilors are divided over how important the project is to start now. 


With an initial price tag of $70 million and skyrocketing real estate and construction costs projected to add 30% or more to the final bill, the future of the five acre parcel of land at the corner of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive as an arts and culture district for Park City has gotten a little complicated. 


The city first purchased the land in 2017 for nearly $20 million and has committed to using the space, known informally as Bonanza Park, as a place for community-focused development. 


The city’s 10-year visioning process in 2019 and early 2020 showed investment in key areas like transportation, affordable housing, and the arts were high priorities for Park City’s citizens. 


The master plan for the arts and culture district was submitted earlier this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning development costs have thrown a wrench in the city’s plans. 


At this week’s two city council meetings, lengthy discussion about the timeline of the project took place with the council largely unified in their support for an eventual arts district, but divided on when the city should give the green light. 


Councilmember Steve Joyce has been vocal about his concerns over the costs of the project and worried that a financial commitment that large could unnecessarily tie the city’s hands. 


“To me, this all comes down to what we heard both from Tim [Henney] and Max [Doilney]. It’s a financial tradeoff and that’s what we’re really in the position of. I think everybody sitting here would love to have an art and culture district, I certainly would. I think it’s a wonderful addition to the city. I believe that we basically pillage most of our ability to do bold action for all the other things that we’ve looked at.” 


The current plans contain a large area with studios and other spaces for artists and other creatives to finish work and do business. The plans also contain a sizable affordable housing component and transportation hub. 


Councilor Becca Gerber pushed back on Joyce’s assessment and said it was high time for the city to invest in the community in similar ways it has already invested in other areas. 


“I hear what Steve is saying, that we are committing a lot of money to this project and we are going to not be able to invest in maybe some other projects that we might be interested in doing over the next five to ten years, but we have done some really big projects in the past. We bought the open space, we’ve invested in a lot of open space, for the most part, but I think that it’s time for us to invest in our community and I really think that’ what this arts and culture district does.”    


Park City Mayor Andy Beerman told KPCW the reason the arts and culture district is so complicated is because it contains elements from several different priorities identified in Park City’s community visioning process. 


Given the complications of the pandemic, Beerman said phasing the project, which is being considered, is causing some on the city council to second guess jumping in right away.  


“I think we do it a disservice by calling it an ‘arts and culture district’ because it is so much more than that if we’re able to accomplish all these community needs. That is part of what we’re looking at right now is doing this phase one, it doesn’t have the transit benefits, the walkability benefits that we would like to see. That’s part of council’s trepidation. Ultimately, we do think that this is pivotal to what the community’s been asking for, which is bold action on those various priorities.” 


No decisions were made on the future of the arts and culture district this week and the council will revisit this discussion next year on Jan. 7 and 14.

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.
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