The Save the Block campaign to preserve a downtown historic block cleared a key hurdle Wednesday when the town Planning and Zoning Commission endorsed rezoning part of the property.
“I think it’s a creative solution to a challenging legacy zone, which is something we’re trying to move past,” Planning Commissioner Christopher Beaulieu said.
Also this week, Save the Block announced an additional anonymous $1 million pledge if the community can come up with 1,000 new donations — matching it dollar-for-dollar — by July 4. Already, the campaign has received almost $2.5 million from more than 2,200 gifts since June 15.
“This community really knows how to pull off miracles, but we’ve got to believe in this one,” Jackson Hole Land Trust President Laurie Andrews said. “And show up for it.”
As for the rezone, the request now moves to the Jackson Town Council for final approval.
The request comes from the Save the Block’s coalition of community partners, spearheaded by the Land Trust, working to preserve green space and historic buildings on the block that’s home to Persephone Bakery, Healthy Being Juicery and Cafe Genevieve. An anonymous family has placed the property under contract while the community raises money to preserve what the Land Trust calls a “cultural landscape.”
To make the project pencil out, backers say they need the rezone to cluster development in the corner farthest from the green space and historic buildings. The rest of the property, with support from public donations, would have easements put in place to protect open space and historic character.
“This rezone is key,” Andrews said. “With a $22 million project, that corner continues to be pivotal to making certain we can pull all the pieces together.”
Robbin Levy Mommsen, attorney for the anonymous family, added: “We can’t make a plan work and be able to pay the purchase price for the property if we don’t have this zoning.”
The new zone, Downtown Core, would be similar to the existing, outdated zone, Urban Commercial, except that it allows for taller buildings, residential use, access to a workforce housing bonus and new pedestrian frontage standards.
It’s the same zoning requested last September, when the property was under contract for sale to become a hotel. At that time, landowner Gardner Capital Management applied to rezone the entire property to Downtown Core. In exchange for a rezone, Gardner Capital offered to permanently preserve the Cafe Genevieve building on-site and move the other two to “meaningful locations.”
That request elicited a strong community reaction and push to preserve the block’s character as is. Ultimately, Gardner Capital withdrew its rezoning application after planning staff and town planning commissioners rejected it, hoping to get a better deal on preserving more of the block.
“I think the zoning change doesn’t mean these buildings are protected, but I think it provides an opportunity to create something we would all potentially appreciate,” Planning Commissioner David Vandenberg said.
With the latest million-dollar-match challenge, the Save the Block project is on track to secure $4 million by July 4.
“We are hoping that the community’s participation inspires larger donors to step up and help us round out the final two months of this project,” Land Trust Board Chair Jason Snider said in a press release.
Donate at SaveTheBlock.org.