Start your day in Kimball Junction with an espresso from Park City Coffee Roasters. Follow with a stop at Smith’s for some dinner provisions before a spin class at the Basin Rec Field House and a slice of pizza from Maxwell’s. The distance covered among all those stops is less than three quarters of a mile, but few would dare tackle such a journey on foot for fear of certain death.
Kimball Junction is a maze of paint-by-numbers development with an endless sea of asphalt and sidewalks to nowhere. Its isolated pockets of community are notoriously hostile to pedestrians, which is why Summit County’s Neighborhood Master Planning Committee is trying to give the area a redesign.
Some would argue the effort’s too little, too late after 30 years of fragmented development. Each individual plot in Kimball Junction ticks required zoning boxes but without any overarching identity. The area was essentially built as a regional shopping center and truck stop—see the endless parking spaces and cornucopia of chain restaurants—but how it falls short is in its evolving space as a town center for the growing majority of Parkites who call unincorporated Snyderville Basin home. The surge of diverse, new restaurants hints at the area’s potential but can’t mask its underlying incoherence.
Prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Summit County Planning Commission anticipated a surge in residential and commercial development, but pervading local opinion held that Snyderville Basin would remain a rural area without the need for a broader plan. Lo and behold, some 26,000 people now call the Basin home and traffic and development gripes have become the area’s number one export.
“Kimball Junction is the poster child for fear of development, but well-planned development is the opportunity to evolve it into the community you want. We can’t just abandon the area to market forces. That’s what got us here,” says Summit County Community Development Director Patrick Putt. The no development is good development ship sailed long ago; the county has already approved 4,000 single family units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space, all of which is yet to be built.
The Neighborhood Master Planning Committee—which is comprised of property owners, elected officials and private residents—unveiled its amended neighborhood plan for Kimball Junction earlier in 2019 to guide the process. “We’re striving to create a people-oriented environment, not one that’s catered to the movement of vehicles,” says Summit County Director of Planning and Zoning Design and committee member Peter Barnes.
Barnes emphasizes the need for centralized parking facilities and seamlessly-connected, walkable neighborhoods with a logical mixture of open space, businesses and workforce housing to get people out of their vehicles and engaging with each other and their surroundings.“Everyone gets caught up talking about traffic, but there’s no one fix for that,” Barnes adds. “Some components of the plan will help, but frankly traffic issues are secondary to the quality of experience in the community.”
The amended neighborhood plan isn’t a binding document; it’s a starting point. “The plan is a community creed, which we hope will drive neighborhood engagement during the development process,” Putt says. “Planning is the human side of development where we can tap into our imagination of what a better place looks like. We love to hear from people in the community whether it’s directly or at meetings, but we hope they can bring their ideas, vision and inspiration, not only complaints.”
Therein lies the primary crux of the development debate. Blindly abhorring change won’t fix Kimball Junction. Leaving the area to the development whims of the highest bidders will precipitate issues of exclusivity and inaccessibility familiar to Old Town. “Kimball Junction is the gateway to the entire area and the hub of a rapidly growing population in Summit County. A spectrum of livability that fits a diverse set of needs is fundamental to the area,” Barnes says.
It’s going to take a wide array of informed, passionate people to drive change. Visit the Summit County website to get educated, get involved and see your ideas come to life in Kimball Junction’s future.
Subscribers can see more. Sign up and you’ll be included in our membership program and get access to exclusive deals, premium content and more. Get the magazine, get the deals, get the best of life in Utah!