The Grove

The Housing Authority Board is recommending that the town and county reject a $5 million offer to purchase The Grove Phase 1.

Town and county officials next week will consider an offer to purchase The Grove Phase 1, a three-story building on Scott Lane that houses 20 affordable rental apartments and several commercial operations.

The $5 million offer comes from Solitude Capital I LLC, an investment group led by Shaun Andrikopoulos, owner of Teton Sports and Spine Imaging, which is one of three businesses now occupying the building. The other two are Healing Waters and Shea’s Salon.

The Housing Authority Board is recommending that elected officials reject the deal, opting instead to hold onto the property that one board member called “the shining star in the portfolio of the Housing Authority.”

“I think it would be sad to see it sold and managed by a private party,” authority clerk Annie Kent Droppert said.

Even if the town and county were to sell the project, they could still dictate some of the terms of its usage. For example, they could preserve the process by which the housing department now selects tenants through a weighted drawing, retain the right of first purchase in the case of foreclosure and dictate the income ranges at which the units must be rented.

As it stands, they are designated for those earning between 80% and 120% of the average income in Teton County. Rent is based on the household’s income.

The purchase offer also raised the question of to what extent the Housing Authority wants to own and manage commercial space. The board members agreed that although it isn’t the authority’s primary mission, it will generate revenue that could be used for additional housing.

The building could also serve other purposes for local government in the future. For example, it could be used for child care, or office space for the town and county. Purchasing such space in the future could be a major expense, Board Chair Matt Faupel noted, but “here, it’s as close to free as we’re going to get.”

“I think there’s something to be said for holding on to the commercial space,” Board Chair Matt Faupel said, “because we’re not making any more of it.”

The board also agreed that if the town and county do decide to sell the property, it should be listed for sale and open to the market rather than be granted automatically to Solitude Capital.

Paul Beaupre, CEO of St. John’s Medical Center, told the board he is “very concerned” about the buyer. He argued that “this investment group has already demonstrated a propensity for putting up medical entities in the community that erode the margins at St. John’s,” a nonprofit hospital, by offering cheaper MRIs through Teton Sports and Spine Imaging.

Andrikopoulos could not be reached for comment by press time. In the past, he has said he has no problem with St. John’s, but argued that “competition just makes the marketplace healthier.”

“We chose to offer a better, faster, cheaper service,” he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide in 2018. “It’s a very simple value proposition for people. I just think St. John’s can choose to compete on the same level if they want to, but that’s their business, not ours.”

The Town Council and the Teton County Board of County Commissioners will consider the offer during their joint meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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