The bulldozers are lining up and belching diesel fumes. Local factions are at the Home Depot gathering pitchforks. Shadowy figures laugh maniacally while counting stacks of money in clandestine boardrooms. It’s a development showdown in the heart of Park City. Here we go again.
“Wait. What’s being developed this time?” some are asking. “Is there even open space remaining upon which to build?” If that sounds like you, you’re probably feeling the effects of Development Opinion Fatigue, in which the deluge of development-related opinions have muddied your working knowledge of what’s actually going on in Park City. Earlier this spring, Vail Resorts agreed to sell the parking lots at the base of Park City Mountain to the Provo-based firm Peg Companies, opening the door for imminent development at the base of the resort.
Both PEG Companies and Vail Resorts declined to disclose the purchase price for the 10-acre plot, which includes the upper parking lot and both lower parking lots at Park City Mountain. Because the development will encompass a significant area of where Park City the town and Park City the resort intersect, it will undeniably have an impact on the character of each. As such, immediate public reactions ranged from, “This welcome development shall keep Park City on par with other world-class destinations,” to, “These ruthless corporate entities will stop at nothing to gut what remains of our once-quaint mountain paradise.”
Naturally, some ire was directed towards Vail Resorts for their role, though the seeds of the deal were sown back in the 1990s when the resort’s previous owner, Pwdr Corp., secured an approval of the area’s development rights. It was only a matter of time before one entity or another would ultimately look to capitalize on the immense value attached to those rights, and Vail Resorts did so after acquiring those rights when they purchased Park City Mountain in 2014 following a lawsuit with Pwdr Corp. If or when Pwdr Corp. would have ultimately done the same is anyone’s guess.
The ultimate impact of large-scale development in the Park City Mountain lots will take on a different quality depending on one’s point of reference, but it should be easier to stomach than other recent proposals—such as the scratched development of Treasure Mountain—because unspoiled open space—a non-renewable, diminishing resource—is not under threat. The lots themselves are nothing more than an expanse of slackly-maintained, fractured asphalt. They serve little purpose in the summer apart from overflow parking space for the town’s most popular events. During winter, the lots provide free parking for the resort, which is lackadaisically managed and falls short of requisite capacity. Though the lots were the site of some epic closing day parties over the years, anxiety over their demise seems misguided.
The elimination of free parking at Park City Mountain’s base area will ruffle some feathers, but it’s probably a necessary step. Paid parking may finally compel skiers to change behavior rather than merely complain about increased traffic. If—and that’s a big if—the change is accompanied by infrastructure that turns the base area into a viable public transportation hub, skiers and the community at large could benefit from an area catered to maximizing quality of life rather than maximizing the number of vehicles that can pass through.
The planning process has just begun, but the proposed project includes a hotel and spa, restaurants, retailers, residences and workforce housing. The loss of the surface lots is said to be offset by improved access to public parking—which likely means parking garages and the end of free parking—as well as transit and traffic infrastructure. “PEG is the lead in addressing community concerns, and Vail Resorts will assist as needed,” Vail Resorts Corporate Hospitality Communications Manager Maggie Meisinger, said. “PEG is still in the early stages of planning, but traffic, transit, safety and pedestrian connectivity issues will be a primary focus. PEG understands an enhanced base area must reflect city and community priorities.”
Vail Resorts has eschewed directly developing land in recent years and has instead sought outside firms to take the lead, allowing Vail to focus on resort operations and improvements. PEG as lead developer will seek to balance the requirements of the resort and the town, which they should understand well from previous projects in Jackson and Sun Valley. The planning process is subject to community input and an approval process by the Park City Municipal Corp. We were unable to get a comment directly from PEG prior to publication, but vice president Robert Schmidt has said publicly PEG hoped to submit an application to City Hall by spring 2020 with groundbreaking following one to two years after.
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