JACKSON HOLE, WYO – When the town pulled off a real estate deal that landed it property at 174 N. King Street in November 2007, electeds weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do with it.
The parcel was eyed for housing; in fact the upstairs 4BR apartment has been rented to a town employee who has a lease in place through February 2019. A tenant for the downstairs portion of the building was also secured about six years ago. The Jackson Hole Children’s Museum was granted a dollar-a-year lease in a unique partnership that has resulted in the flourishing of JHCM in the past few years.
But the property has been underutilized for a decade now. The hope of the current town council—none of whom were seated when the town acquired the property—is that a private developer/contractor will emerge with a plan to makeover the 16,988-foot plot into something resembling workforce housing.
Request for Proposals
On Monday night during their regularly scheduled meeting, Jackson town councilors approved a Request for Proposals to construct workforce housing at 174 N. King Street. The RFP is for the long-term ground lease and development of the town-owned property located in the downtown core and currently home to the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum and one employee housing unit.
“This project represents an excellent opportunity to provide workforce housing that is close to schools, the rec center, open space, and jobs,” stated housing director, April Norton. “We look forward to partnering with a developer who is committed to building a project that enhances livability in our community.”
The Housing Supply Plan, approved in October, identifies 174 N. King Street as the first project to be developed.
“We are eager to move the Housing Supply Plan forward and to take this very real step towards developing workforce housing for our community,” Mayor Pete Muldoon commented. “Our working families are the backbone of this community and the Town is excited to build stable housing for these households.”
Throughout the process, Children’s Museum director Jean Lewis has asked councilors to factor a community benefit component like her museum. The facility has blossomed into a robust after-school program that serves more than 1,500 K-5 children, annually, in a community where daycare is at a premium.
“You are in a position…you have the power to state what is required at that space,” Lewis said at Monday’s meeting. “Requiring a community benefit piece would be getting a greater impact.”
Lewis debunked what she called “insinuations” that JHCM was the recipient of a government handout with the nominal rent agreement. She outlined the museum’s annual costs and how much money they have invested in the facility. She also said she has had no luck in finding an alternate home—whether temporary or permanent—given the current feeding frenzy real estate market.
Still, councilors expressed a desire to keep the RFP as open-ended as they could in order to get back the widest variety of proposals.
“Personally, I would look at a community benefit space as a benefit. But want to see proposals come back as unencumbered as can be,” councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson said.
Councilman Don Frank reminded Lewis that while the RFP did not require a community benefit component it also did not preclude one. “I’m a great supporter of the Children’s Museum,” Frank said. “But whoever hopes to find space [in the reconstructed 174 N. King Street property] will have to find something elsewhere for two years or more while this is being built.”
Mayor Pete Muldoon alluded to the RFP process, which will not limit respondents in number of submissions but will require at least one be 100 percent housing. “Regardless of what happens here, we all recognize the great benefit the Children’s Museum has been,” he added.
Council members said they would also consider some of the project including a commercial component if that would make it pencil better for developers and if it was of community benefit.
The Town of Jackson (ToJ) acquired 174 N. King Street from the Church of Christ in 2007. To complete the transaction, ToJ exchanged Lots 59 & 60 of the Indian Trails subdivision and 950 Simon Lane for 174 N. King Street. ToJ also paid the Church of Christ $65,000 upon execution of the land exchange.