One of the last barriers to preserving a historic downtown block dissolved Monday when elected officials rezoned part of the property.
The East Broadway block — home to Cafe Genevieve, Persephone Bakery and Healthy Being Juicery — is now set to remain mostly as is. Only the northwest corner of the property will be redeveloped, sparing the popular historic structures and their surrounding green space.
“The zone change is really part of the community solution,” said George Putnam, a consultant involved in the process. “It’s the first step that will allow the future preservation to happen.”
The update comes amid an extensive campaign to raise millions of dollars to “save the block,” and forms part of a complex agreement between the current owners, an anonymous family holding the property under contract and the Jackson Hole Land Trust.
It’s the second rezone attempt by the property’s owner, Gardner Capital Management. The first application came last fall, when the block was under contract for $25 million and set to become a “very large hotel.”
At that point the terms were far different: In exchange for a rezone of the entire property, Gardner Capital offered to preserve the Cafe Genevieve building on-site and move the other two buildings to “meaningful locations.”
The proposal sparked opposition from the community, along with town planners and the Planning Commission, who argued instead for an agreement that would better uphold the block’s history and character. Gardner Capital withdrew that application before it reached the Town Council.
But with the new one restricting the rezone to the northern side of the block and preserving the three buildings in place, all parties are satisfied with the outcome.
“We asked for a better deal,” said Ryan Nourai, outreach associate with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, who led the grassroots campaign to preserve the block. “This is a better deal.”
The rezoned portion of the property now bears the name Downtown Core rather than Urban Commercial. The two designations are similar, but Downtown Core notably allows for taller buildings and additional square footage through a workforce housing bonus. As Putnam put it, that means development there can have a more compact footprint.
Michael Stern from the Teton County Historic Preservation Board, which has also pushed for maintaining the block’s character, said preservationists are more concerned with the parcels that aren’t changing. But nevertheless they are celebrating the rezone.
“They are part of one plan,” he said, “and we support this plan because of the preservation results we are going to get from it, which are major.”
As for the individual pieces of the block, the anonymous family is holding them all under contract only to allow time for careful planning.
The family will purchase the property at closing but then sell the northwest corner for “thoughtful development.” The restaurants will buy their own parcels, and the southeast corner is likely to become a new campus for the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum.
From a bureaucratic standpoint there is no longer anything standing in the way of efforts to preserve the block. With the rezone secure the only variable left in the site’s future is the community’s willingness to contribute the final $2.5 million needed to purchase easesments.
“We have a lot of work left to do in the next month,” Councilor Jim Stanford said, “and I’m hopeful we will reach that goal.”