Three builders await town decision on housing project

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Town leaders put off a decision on Monday to award a builder for its workforce housing development at 174 N. King St. Housing Department director April Norton presented a recommended trio of alternatives to choose from, whittled down from nine proposals from four respondents to an RFP issued last November.

Norton offered to the town council three finalists as decided by herself and the seven-member Housing Supply Board on February 21:

  • Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, Jackson, Wyoming
  • Westmount Development Group, Branford, Connecticut
  • CaRE Wyoming Partners LLC, Los Angeles, California

“All three finalists proposed compelling and quality projects, which should be celebrated and should incite optimism around the potential for the new RFP approach to reap quality and consistent rewards that will result in more workforce housing for our community,” Norton said, adding that each project comes with its own set of risks and opportunities.

Housing Trust concept

The RFP did not specify a preference for rental or ownership units. The Housing Department got back a little of both in the proposals.

The Housing Supply Board agreed that priority should be given to rental opportunities, given the high cost to develop these units and the dearth of affordable rental units in the valley compared to the demand for this product. They also noted that the ownership units proposed by the Housing Trust were priced too high.

Westmount floor plan

The board was split between the CaRE Residential proposal with the “incredible opportunity” to leverage the adjacent northern parcels for a 100% workforce housing project, and the Westmount proposals with the opportunity to leverage LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credits) to provide much needed low-income rental housing to the valley’s most underserved population.

What was said

Public comment at the council’s Monday night meeting was largely in support of keeping the Children’s Museum (a current renter at the property now) as a community benefit “commercial” component.

Children’s Museum director Jean Lewis said, “We’ve spent a lot of time scouring the market looking for rentals. There are none out there, especially with an ideal location like this.”

Lewis said she supported the proposal from the Housing Trust, which makes accommodation for the Children’s Museum.

Councilors were interested in a community space of some kind though councilman Don Frank said it did not necessarily have to be the Children’s Museum.

“There is a presumption here that the Children’s Museum is a shoe-in but others might also want to put their hats in the ring,” he said.

174 N King map (Teton County)

As for Frank, once again he found himself the only one ready to cast a vote. Other councilors all expressed a desire to digest the material a little more before choosing a builder.

“Have you digested it?” Frank asked Norton.

“Yes,” she answered.

“Are you ready for a decision?” Frank followed up.

“Yes,” Norton assured.

Hailey Morton Levinson said it was a lot to digest and she could use another two weeks. Jim Stanford called it a major decision with town property and preferred more time to “look carefully before we leap.”

Frank insisted, “I heard twice tonight teams mention time being of the essence and the urge to get something going. I do think we have an obligation to conclude business in a timely way so one of these deserving teams can move from suitor to partner.”

Rather than wait until after spring break, the council opted for a special meeting on March 13 at 6pm.

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