Muster moxie to control downtown architecture
The politics driving Ketchums attempt to reduce the
size of buildings in about two-thirds of its downtown became apparent during a review of a
building designed for the highly visible Sun Valley Road site that used to be home to
The "Peak" building has nice timbered balconies on two sides,
but its "statement" featuresfour white-rocked elevator towers and a
50s-retro-style entrancelook like pieces of Miami or L.A.
If built as designed, the phones at City Hall will light up when the
critics weigh in. But that will be too late.
Thats the reason the city is desperately trying to find a way to
regulate downtown buildings.
At Mondays packed hearing on the downtown section of a new
comprehensive plan, P&Z members pleaded with the crowd to tell them what they should
do about the rising community sense that new buildings are too big.
The citys answer: Build them smaller.
The publics answer: Design them better.
P&Z members suddenly looked like timid rabbits being pursued by
voracious wolves. And its no wonder.
When a commercial building comes up for design review, P&Z members
have precious few guidelines. Ketchum leaders could never muster the moxie nor the votes
to seriously regulate downtown design.
During design reviews, P&Z members are beset by owners and architects
who cry for total freedom. When the buildings go up, its P&Z members and city
staff who are battered by noisy critics whose numbers seem to increase each year.
The solution? Ketchum needs to decide how it wants to look. It wont
be easy, and its bound to be noisy.
The city could start simply by looking at existing buildings and figuring
out what a majority of people like.
For example, we havent heard anyone complain about the 19th century
"big" buildings like the one that now houses Starbucks. On the contrary, people
love it and want to protect it. This must mean they like red brick with wooden window
No one complains about white clapboard buildings, like the old
Louies building. Score 10 for this style.
People seem to like the timber and river rock ski lodges on Baldy, too.
On the other hand, every time a building with unrelieved multi-story
stucco walls goes up, the phones light up at City Hall. They also ring loud when buildings
look like theyve been transplanted directly from the beach, the Southwest desert,
the strip mall or the Acropolis.
The clues are there. The answers exist. City leaders must find the courage
to impose design guidelines and stick to them.