Park City is enjoying a strong economic stretch more than a year after the pandemic-forced shutdowns of the spring of 2020, the financial markets are soaring and real estate is booming.
Even with the performance, a question was raised this week about the financial fortitude of a Provo developer that is pursuing a major project at the Park City Mountain Resort base area.
The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday continued its talks about the proposal by PEG Companies for the ground where the PCMR parking lots are located. The Planning Commission held another difficult discussion about the project.
One of the highlights of the meeting, though, was testimony from one of the project critics. Deborah Hickey, who is aligned with an opposition group called Responsible Resort Area Development Coalition, addressed the economic conditions in her remarks to the Planning Commission. She worried about the economy and the prospects of construction starting at PCMR but then stopping based on financial concerns. Hickey described to the panelists she did not want the digging to begin and then work be halted, and she wanted the firm to provide evidence it has the financial wherewithal for the development.
“PEG should also make some sort of proof that they have the ability to fund this entire project because the economy right now is on the verge of really showing great signs of stress — inflation, fuel cost, everything’s rising,” she said. “I’d like to know that we’re not going to be left with some big, dusty crater holes out in front of the Park City resort area when this company decides they don’t want to build anymore.”
She also wanted to learn “how you can protect us from not having a structure that is never built and is just a big dust hole.”
Neither the Planning Commission nor the developer responded directly to the comments by Hickey. The Planning Commission does not consider the financial strength of a landowner or developer when making decisions about a project. The decisions rather are based on City Hall development rules.
Park City developers occasionally must stop or slow work based on economic conditions, but in most cases there is limited impact on the wider community. In a scenario like the one outlined by Hickey, there could be broad impacts on the PCMR base area as well as much of the rest of Park City based on the importance of the parking lots.
PEG Companies earlier reached an agreement with PCMR owner Vail Resorts to acquire the land. The deal is not expected to be finalized until after a decision is made about the project. There are development rights attached to the land dating from the 1990s, when a previous owner of the resort received an overall approval from City Hall for a base-area project. The rights went to Vail Resorts when it acquired PCMR.
The Provo developer wants to win Planning Commission approval for an ambitious project that would essentially redefine the PCMR base area. The 10-acre proposal includes residences, a hotel, retailers and restaurants. Large garages would be built to account for the loss of the parking currently in the lots.
Critics, though, have seized on issues like the traffic the project is expected to attract, the height of the proposed buildings and the overall layout. Members of the Planning Commission appear to hold lingering concerns about some of the key issues as a vote seems to be approaching in coming months.
PEG Development President Robert Schmidt in a prepared statement made at the request of The Park Record in response to the comments regarding the economic conditions provided a vague answer to the concern. He did not address details about the financing, as an example.
“While no one has a Magic 8-Ball on the economy, we have planned this project to come in nearly 150,000 square feet under density while still delivering on the full replacement of structured, day-skier parking; onsite attainable housing; a new transit hub; and meeting sustainable goals with a phased construction schedule and a solid financial plan,” Schmidt said in the statement.
Schmidt in the spring of 2020, in the early months of the pandemic, told The Park Record in a prepared statement the developer “views the economic issues currently being experienced as a short term (short term being relative, but several months or a year) issue and this project has a duration that is long term.” He also said at that time: “PEG is capable of securing the necessary financing at the appropriate time. Again, due to the timelines associated with this project, we don’t anticipate difficulty securing the needed financing.”