A new affordable housing project is giving county commissioners five choices for what to build at 105 Mercill Ave.

Five developers answered the call for designs to build a minimum of 22 units on the property next to the Children’s Learning Center. From offering a home to the displaced Jackson Hole Children’s Museum to placing restaurant space on the ground floor, each embraces a different vision for the parcel’s future.

This marks the third recent attempt by elected officials to solicit housing proposals. So far, Mercill has attracted the most options. Previous requests attracted four developers for 174 N. King St. and three for 440 W. Kelly Ave. Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department Director April Norton said she was delighted with the number and quality of responses this go-around.

“What we’ve seen through the evolution of the request for proposals process is we’re getting better, more complete responses with each RFP we do,” Norton said.

This time around, for example, developers were asked to submit references and letters of interest from bank lenders.

Of all the proposals, the nonprofit Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust is proposing the most income-restricted units: 13 of 24 total. It proposes to finance the project using private philanthropy as well as selling four rights of first purchase to community employers.

“It is the primary objective of this project to maximize community benefit,” the proposal states. Revenue also would come from the sale of 6,609 square feet of commercial space to the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.

Another design, from local firm Design Associates, was submitted by two different developers proposing different construction options for 28 units with a lot of parking (71 spaces, below grade).

The Mercill Partners LLC proposal — backed by developer and restaurateur Joe Rice — offers stick-frame construction, while United Development Solutions proposes a cheaper, quicker and remote modular assembly. After seeing officials’ reluctance to jump into modular with a previous proposal, Design Associates’ Chris Lee said the firm decided to offer both options this time for side-by-side comparison.

A proposal from Onion Flats Development and Love/Schack Architecture is unique in its reliance on solar power, saving residents utility costs and promising a carbon-neutral sustainable building. It also proposes selling only one-bedroom apartments, in contrast to other developers, which are offering a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Other amenities include a shared working and meeting space on the ground floor, a “community garden-BBQ-playground” and a couple of extra guest suite bedrooms “to be shared by the community for visiting overnight guests,” the proposal says.

The final proposal comes from Westmount Development, the same Connecticut firm that the Jackson Town Council chose to build affordable housing at 174 N. King St. New West Building Company would handle construction for the proposal, which seeks a mix of 23 units with 3,286 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and “tuck under” parking.

Housing and planning staff will review the proposals for compliance with town and county rules and provide an analysis of each project’s feasibility. Developers can expect follow-up questions.

Then the town and county Housing Supply Board will consider staff analysis and extra information to make a recommendation at a meeting set for 4 p.m. June 11 in the county commissioners’ chambers. The meeting will be livestreamed, Norton said. Because the land is owned by Teton County, the Board of County Commissioners will have the final say on which development is chosen on July 2.

“I’m excited about all of them,” Norton said. “I think we’ll get a good project.”

Norton said that even though only one developer can win, the process has exposed more people to the tools available to build affordable housing, which could be applied in the private sector as well.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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(1) comment

Ed Sanden

22 units here, 35 units there, 3k ft of commercial, 5k sq ft commercial there, much handwringing, public hearings, rejections, small approvals, what tedious master plan “community feedback” tail wagging dog agony. Lift the building height to 5 stories or allow a high rise to be built into or against a butte (no destruction of views, wildlife corridors, and no destruction of old log cabins). 5000 units. 100k+ commercial. Put it to bed and move onto traffic/ highway efficiency and kids going to school - productive business in the true interest of the people. There are millions of acres of wilderness, park, conservation, forest already in place. Get in front or eat dust and resistance forever.

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