Friday, July 6, 2007

Sun Valley Music Pavilion reaches for the sky

City Council allows pavilion to exceed height limit

Express Staff Writer

A scale model of Sun Valley Co.?s proposed Music Pavilion depicts the proscenium arch that would support a permanent horn-like, copper covered acoustical shell. The pavilion will seat 1,500 spectators under cover, and the surrounding grass area could accommodate an additional 3,000 people. Given approvals, the project is slated for completion by Aug. 1, 2008. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sun Valley City Council took action on Thursday to allow Sun Valley Co.'s proposed music pavilion to exceed the 64-foot height limit set forth in Commercial Core zoning district standards. Under the proposed design, the music pavilion will be 67 feet tall.

The change approved by the council will appear as a footnote in city ordinance. The music pavilion, however, will be much more than a footnote for the city of Sun Valley.

"Architecturally, this is going to be a statement in mountain towns," Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman said. "This is going to be state-of-the-art."

Allowing the music pavilion to exceed 64 feet is significant. The maximum height was initially set because it's the high point of the Sun Valley Lodge—the traditional centerpiece of the area. An ordinance passed in May 2007 allowed new hotels to exceed the 64-foot limit through alternative compliance measures. The council's action adds the music pavilion to the alternative compliance subsection of the ordinance.

Alternative compliance allows for flexibility in height if the P&Z or City Council determines the structure is architecturally compatible with the natural terrain and with land use on nearby properties. Moreover, the ordinance states, "structures adjacent to Sun Valley Lodge shall respect the height, massing, and historical context of the Lodge."

"The key word is 'respects,' and this is a highly subjective term," said Community Development Director Mark Hofman in an interview. "But the idea is we don't want everything at the resort to look like the lodge. Times change."

The council's action allows Sun Valley Co. to rescind its variance application to exceed the set height limit and move forward with the City Council's consideration of an associated rezone and master plan amendment on July 19. If approved, Sun Valley Co. will bring its final design of the Music Pavilion structure in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 7.

The project is slated for completion by Aug. 1, 2008.

The city has placed the project on the fast track for two reasons. One is because of the time constraints associated with trying to complete the project in time for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's 2008 summer schedule. Second, the city's 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update calls on the city to "provide the Sun Valley Resort with the support and partnership it needs to continue to be a distinctive year-round resort in a highly competitive industry."

The $10 million project, featuring 1,500 seats as well as a surrounding elevated park for an additional 3,000 spectators, will house a 6,000-square-foot stage under a proscenium arch that will support the permanent horn-like acoustical shell covering roughly half of the enclosed area. The shell will be built of a tensile-steel web with a wooden roof topped with copper sheeting. The structure is designed so that no pillars or additional support structures are necessary—meaning none of the 1,500 seats will have an obstructed view of the stage. The other half of the structure will be covered with a synthetic fabric that can be taken down and stored during the winter months.

Of the $10 million cost, the symphony will pay $3 million and "we'll pay for whatever is left," Huffman said. While Sun Valley Co. owns the facility, the symphony will have exclusive, uninterrupted use of the pavilion for its summer season. The 14 planned summer symphony events will be open to the general public and free of change.

The initial design called for a facility that could be used year-round. The cost of such a structure would have been three times the current cost estimate.

"It just didn't feel right," Huffman said. "The symphony really felt the need to bring the outdoors in to the audience."

At its lowest point, the music pavilion will be 15 feet below grade. Sinking the structure into the ground will provide better viewing from the grass and also reduces noise pollution from traffic on Dollar Road during rehearsals. This will require a significant amount of excavation, Huffman said. The excavation will remain neutral. Removed earth will be used to increase the height of a natural berm, providing enhanced viewing from the grass.

"The Holding family has continually stressed the importance of enhancing the experience for those preferring to watch and listen from the surrounding lawns," Huffman said in a press release.

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