The recently released Housing Supply Plan identified six town-owned properties on which workforce housing could be developed.

But the first property scheduled for redevelopment, 174 N. King St., is leased by the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.

On Monday the Town Council extended the nonprofit’s lease by one year to give the town and the museum time to flesh out ideas for a new location.

“We are in full support of redevelopment and the need for affordable housing in this town,” Jean Lewis, executive director of the museum, told the council Monday night. “But we’re also extremely aware of the need for out-of-school care and quality education for working families here.”

According to the Housing Supply Plan, a request for proposals asking private developers to submit plans for housing to be built on town land was tentatively scheduled to be released this fall. From there, according to the plan, the town would award the development contract at the beginning of 2018, with construction complete by the third quarter of 2019.

Given the zoning at 174 N. King St., along with its proximity to public transportation and parking lots that could reduce parking requirements, April Norton, director of the Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department, estimated the property could accommodate 35,000 square feet of development. At 800 square feet per unit it could create more than 40 units.

A little more time

While officials at the Children’s Museum support the concept, they questioned whether such an ambitious plan could be realized in such a short time.

“We’re very sensitive to the fact that 174 N. King St. is the first and most desired location for affordable housing, and we are completely in support of that,” Lewis said. “We’re just trying to be realistic about the time frame. Knowing how design and build works in this town, we thought maybe we could ask for a little more time.”

Because the town acquired the land in 2010 with the goal of building workforce housing, housing must be built there. But development plans are still in the preliminary phase.

Ultimately the town decided it would be best to allow the Children’s Museum to occupy the lot for as long as possible and extended its lease through February 2019. At that time the town should have a clearer picture of when and how it will redevelop 174 N. King St.

“We’re waiting to hear back about the Housing Supply Plan,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said. “We don’t know if that’s going to get approved. We don’t really know what the time line is. I’m certainly open to extending this if we don’t have any plans. I don’t want to see this building sit empty for a year or even six months.”

If aspects of the Housing Supply Plan change and development of 174 N. King St. is delayed, the council would be open to extending the museum’s lease for another year or two.

Museum on first floor

Another possibility the council discussed is to require any proposal for a housing development on the property to include space on the first floor for the Children’s Museum.

“The biggest part of this RFP is going to be deciding what you want,” Town Manager Bob McLaurin said. “We built an affordable housing project when I was in Colorado that specified there had to be a day care as part of the deal. What we’re bringing to the deal is land. In October you can talk about what you’ll require from developers to build on that land and if you want to try to create a longer-term relationship with the museum through this RFP process.”

By state statute the Housing Supply Plan must undergo a 45-day public comment period before it can be approved. It was first presented in early August. Town and county electeds are expected to approve the document in some form in early October and to immediately begin issuing RFPs.

“My family benefits from the Children’s Museum and I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a lot of these guys and recognize the great community benefit that it provides,” Councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson said. “I would like to see something of community benefit on the bottom level of whatever we choose to develop there, and the Children’s Museum comes high on my list.”

Contact John Spina at 732-5911, or @JHNGtown.

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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