Hole in the ground to get filled with condos, neighbors keep street mostly intact

JACKSON, Wyo. — A downtown eyesore is finally moving toward development of a different type.

Town decision-makers approved a development plan for Glenwood Gill Condominiums at 185 N. Glenwood at a council meeting Tuesday night. The free-market condo project is being developed by SR Mills’ Bear Development out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. It marks an end to a long saga that began with the sale of the former Jackson Hole News & Guide location 14 years ago.

Hard-luck lot

McCabe Corner was to have become the Community Housing Trust’s biggest venture to date in 2005 when it purchased the .64-acre parcel from Liz McCabe with the intent of developing a mixed-use project with plenty of affordable housing. The venture fell short, and The Trust ultimately sold to investment management company the Eden Group a year later.

Eden Group didn’t fare much better with the property. Construction was halted in 2008 after a worldwide economic downturn dried up funds. Jim Eden received several extensions on proving up the ‘hole in the ground’ but ultimately surrendered the property to First Interstate Bank who found a buyer in Bear Development in 2012.

Fourth down and yard to go

Mills, who once owned the Painted Buffalo Inn for a decade until he sold it in 2017, was poised finally to carry the ball across the goal line with his 29-unit condominium project but he faced one more hurdle—a yard of encroachment into N Glenwood that drew more than three dozen Episcopalians to town hall Tuesday to voice concern about giveaway on an already narrow street.

Plans for the project include staying with the original construction of an underground parking garage that served as the base for the whole, even though the design puts the building footprint three feet over property boundary lines. Mills is at least $1.2M into it by now and to tear up what’s been done didn’t make sense to him or town staff.

But robbing St. Peter to pay St. Paul didn’t sit well with users of N. Glenwood, especially clergy and parishioners of the nearby church. The three-foot ‘occident’ shouldn’t have to come out of parcel’s western edge with N. Glenwood, they argued.

Rev. Jimmy Bartz reminded the council that its voice should carry some weight given the church has stewarded its property for 109 years. Rev. Brian Nystrom talked about what a nightmare the busy street already is with heavy traffic and very little parking. Ditto, Rev. Mary Erickson.

On it went, a great majority of public comment asked the street not be narrowed nor turned into a one-way traffic flow. Many also expressed approval of the project itself and how they were glad to see something finally being done.

A side note to the story involves 165 N. Glenwood. The attached double-lot was acquired by Bear in 2016. It currently contains a mix of residential and commercial uses in four older structures.

Brigid Mander and others who live at 165 N. Glenwood have been actively involved in working out an arrangement with Mills to keep their ‘affordable’ rentals. Mills has already obtained a demo permit for the property but has expressed as heartfelt desire to work with the current residents.

How they voted

No one on the council had any hangups with Bear’s plans to develop. Everything was by-right and straight forward. But the street; now that demanded a careful approach.

Councilman Jim Stanford was not at all interested in a one-way street. He felt that was something that needed to be looked at comprehensively as to how it fit with traffic management in the area. He agreed parking is tight in the neighborhood but never viewed the street as “dangerous” per se.

“That’s news to me. I’ve never found it dangerous,” Stanford said. “But I’m interested in safety.”

“It all comes down to three feet,” Hailey Morton Levinson admitted, noting that every other aspect of the development itself met land development regs to the T.

Council discussion eventually landed on a plan to narrow up the street slightly and give more room to the pedestrian right of way on the east side of N. Glenwood by the combination of building paver and sidewalk.

Mayor Pete Muldoon said the concession was not a give-away of a yard of public property but an acknowledgment that when the foundation was completed it was to regulation at the time, and to ask the developer to tear it all up now to prove a point would be waste of materials, time and money.

Muldoon also didn’t mind the driving portion of the street getting narrowed up some, figuring it would serve to slow traffic down.

“We are trading the road right of way for the pedestrian right of way in my mind,” Morton Levinson agreed.

The council voted unanimously to approve Bear Development’s condo project. They also directed staff to look into safety issues on the block, including more frequent snow removal, and come back with a plan.

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