A prime piece of Town Square property that’s been seen for years as a redeveloper’s dream has been sold.
But the valuable land seems to have found new owners who don’t plan to change it from the way it has looked for at least four decades.
The five lots are at 155 N. Center St., across East Deloney Avenue from the northeast corner of the square. The lots have two old buildings that are home to Mountain Trails Gallery, Moo’s Ice Cream and Orsetto Italian Bar and Eatery.
A deal for the sale is pending, said listing agent Greg Prugh, and if plans goes as envisioned a closing is expected this month. The 0.59-acre parcel, owned since 2007 by Snow King Resort owner Max Chapman, was advertised at $21.5 million.
Realtors involved in the deal think the corner will remain pretty much as it is.
“We put it out to a bunch of potential buyers,” Prugh said, “and we believe this buyer is not a developer, put it that way.
“That’s not to say it won’t be developed in the future, but the new owner likes the businesses that are there and likes Jackson the way it is.”
Tom Evans of Jackson Hole Real Estate Sotheby’s International Realty represented the buyer in the transaction. Like Prugh he declined to name the new owner but agreed that the future of the property looks the same as its present in years to come.
“They’re buying it as a legacy property for themselves and their families,” Evans said. “They’re not in the development business; it’s strictly a portfolio purchase.”
Evans called the buyers “a nice family in the valley for a number of years” who he said are interested not only in a stable investment but in preserving Jackson: “They just want to buy it to protect it, to preserve it as it is,” he said. “They have no intention of developing it.”
If there were plans to change the property they would run into three established businesses with leases. Mountain Trails Gallery owner Adam Warner, who has done business on the corner for a dozen years, said he was told the buyers are “not doing anything ... they’re keeping the tenants the same.”
Though Warner wouldn’t say how long his lease is for, he called it “long term” and believes his neighbors have similar deals. Warner likes the downtown exposure for his art, which tends toward traditional Western styles.
Selling agent Prugh, of Prugh Real Estate, said Chapman put the property on the market thinking he would “like to find someone ... who could buy it and preserve it, or potentially develop it into something relevant to the future of Jackson.”
Among the many tenants of the space over the years, perhaps best known was the B&W Market, which closed its doors in 1977. It was the last grocery on Town Square in the years that tourist uses pushed out businesses that aimed at the more mundane needs of residents. (See box below.)
Though the buyers have no redevelopment in mind the property was of interest to people with big plans. The two one-story buildings on-site — built in 1950, in the case of the Orsetto location, and 1966 in the case of the gallery and Moo’s — total only about 11,000 square feet on 22,000 square feet of land, most of the space in the building on the square. The lots include 15 parking spaces, the last off-street parking offered by any businesses in the area, except for the new Cloudveil Hotel’s 86 underground spaces.
The Cloudveil is much more what people expected when the Mountain Trails land went on the market. Just across Center Street on 1.09 acres, it opened in May after two years of construction that yielded 100 rooms in about 75,000 square feet.
Current town zoning would allow about 47,000 square feet of floor space on the Mountain Trails lots, with buildings up to three floors high and with built-in approval for retail, hotel and office uses.
Evans said it was “kind of amazing” the property has survived a hot investment and redevelopment atmosphere given its location and low density.
In May 1992, Jackson developer Bland Hoke bought the land and made it clear he saw it mostly for its redevelopment potential. Even then, Hoke said, density on the land “could be significantly increased” under town building rules.
“It’s a good piece of property, a significant piece,” Hoke said then. “I don’t know another like it of that size on the Town Square.”
Despite the parcel’s obvious attractions, Evans noted there are obstacles if and when someone does want to do something with it. He had a list of things he put under the heading of “difficulties getting things approved.”
He noted the worker housing shortage and town rules requiring housing be provided by developers, parking demands in the downtown area, and high building costs that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s part of the attraction for a buyer with no immediate plans to change anything, Evans said.
“If you’ve got the wherewithal to sit on it and maintain it, it’s a perfect opportunity for a buyer,” he said.