Arts and Culture Roundtable Focuses on “Why?” Ahead of Wednesday’s “How?” Public Hearing

Mar 30, 2021

Former Park City Mayor Jack Thomas was instrumental in the initial concept of the arts and culture district and says the project addresses several community needs.

Park City Government hosted a community roundtable discussion on the proposed arts and culture district Monday night. The discussion was led by two of Park City’s mayors and focused on the background of the project.


Monday night’s discussion between Mayor Andy Beerman, former Mayor Jack Thomas, and Councilor Max Doilney was focused on the broader ‘why?’ aspect of the arts and culture district as opposed to the nuts and bolts ‘how?’ questions expected to be addressed at Wednesday’s public hearing.


Thomas explained the idea for city use of the five-acre parcel across from the Park City Cemetery was first brought up during discussions while he served on the Park City Planning Commission in the early 2000s.


At that time, developer’s plans for the parcel included high-rise buildings and large commercial centers. He said those plans did not fit the city’s vision as a mountain community. 


Thomas said the combination of conversations with Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford about a permanent presence in Park City, the Kimball Arts Center’s search for a new location, and no palatable proposals for the land by developers presented the city with a unique opportunity after he took office in 2014.


“This really became an opportunity for us to buy this land with the transient room tax and do something unusual, which is different than what usually happens in western towns in our county,” explained Thomas. “There’s very little planning that really happens on a large scale in the west and this gave us an opportunity to be advocates in that planning and really using the nexus of housing, transit, and arts and culture that we felt were fundamental in that neighborhood. And so, that’s how it all began.”


In 2017, the city bought the land for $19.5 million with a vision of turning it into an arts and culture district.


The most current plans for the project include 50 units of affordable housing, 230 underground parking spots, expanded bus services, studio and event spaces, as well as the expected future headquarters for the Sundance Institute and Kimball Arts Center.


Thomas added it is his belief that combining the art and culture aspects of the project with transportation and housing will help the city’s economy to become less dependent on ski resort visitors.


Strong opinions have been voiced on the city council and in the community about the rising costs of the project.  When the $19.5 million the city paid for the land is included, the total price tag is over the $100 million mark.


Thomas said it is right to question the timing of the project, but maintained his belief that the district will have a far-reaching positive impact on the community.     


“I don’t think there’s a municipality, business, or a household that isn’t reevaluating their situation because of the pandemic,” he said. “I’m very hopeful we can move forward and continue with the district because I think it’s something that will pay back multiple times in terms of our economy, but also in terms of the character, creativity, and vibrancy of our community.”


More details on the arts and culture district, like building specifics and how the city plans to pay for the project, are all expected to be covered during Wednesday’s virtual public hearing. The hearing is scheduled to start at 4:30pm. Details on how to participate can be found here.