Saturday, April 14, 2007

Enlighted Compromises

Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy generated over a proposal for the University of Utah to lease land from This Is The Place (TITP) Heritage Park so that it might construct an office building for its ARUP Laboratories. I agree that building a traditional concrete, glass and steel structure so near the park is not the ideal use for that property. I don’t think anyone, including Ellis Ivory, the chairman of the park's board of directors, prefers this option.

However, in fairness to Mr. Ivory, he has inherited certain realities on the ground at TITP that he now has to deal with--whether he likes it or not. One of those realities is that the park consistently loses money. From what I can see, Mr. Ivory is simply trying to make the park financially “sustainable.” He is trying to set-up a scenario where the park has a perpetual funding source, an endowment if you will. In short, he is trying to save the park, because it cannot continue to exist indefinitely under the current business model. I believe that Mr. Ivory is a fine man, trying to do something noble.

Perhaps, then, the resolution to the controversy lies in merging Mr. Ivory’s vision with that of his critics, such as Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. One possibility might be for TITP to construct a lease-able office building with a facade designed to look like pioneer era businesses on Main Street. Such an edifice would not only blend-in with the current structures, but would actually enhance the park experience for visitors.

Rather than building upward vertically to three stories, it could remain two stories or less, and expand outward horizontally or downward underground in order to find the desired square footage. And, rather than being built off in the distance, away form the existing structures, the office building could actually be incorporated into the park itself.

The facades facing in toward the park could contain small kiosks, offering souvenirs, concessions, work shops, displays, etc. While the facade facing out away from the park could contain the entrances to the actual office building. The interior and basement levels could then be built so that they contain all the accoutrements of a modern office tower, including covered parking.

The icing on the cake would be for Mayor Anderson to see to it that the building was also designed as a model of environmental friendliness--a thoroughly green structure. That way, the park would be both financially and environmentally sustainable.

I think it would be fun to see what the bright minds on both sides of this debate come-up with once they put their heads together. Very often the best ideas, such as the US Constitution, come about through a compromise between two contending factions that ultimately produce an outcome far superior to what either group could have produced independently.

Interestingly, I have been pondering a similar solution to the City Creek sky bridge controversy. I agree with the developer, The Taubman Co., that the two sides of the mall need to be connected via a sky bridge. The reports I have read seem to indicate that many of the folks buying these new condominiums downtown are going to be retirees--people who’s mobility may not be the same as the yuppies we envision living downtown. Increasing accessibility for everyone not only makes sense from a commercial standpoint, but from one of compassion also.

Having said that, I also strongly agree with the Mayor and those architects who suggest that the development needs to have more street level storefronts and entrances. Beyond greatly benefiting the city, I think this is actually in the long-term commercial interest of Taubman as well. Maybe, if Taubman agrees to have more street level storefronts and entrances (and facades that help to tie the development into the surrounding business environment) then perhaps the city could grant the necessary permits for the sky bridge.

It has been my experience that we, as people, need one another. It takes effort, courage and generosity to see another's point of view. And, while we might be tempted to be lazy, cowardly, and selfish, it is in our interest to draw upon the wisdom of others. I hope the various stakeholders will come together and find enlightened compromises to the controversies facing our community. The end result is likely to be something wonderful.

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At Saturday, April 14, 2007 3:56:00 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Ugh. Never trust anybody with a 'vision'.

At Sunday, April 15, 2007 8:51:00 PM, Blogger Alienated Wannabe said...

"Where there is no vision, the people perish . . ." (Proverbs 29:18)


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