Downtown historic preservation

A new consultant report attempts to define “Western character” as officials work to rezone the Town Square and find ways to promote historic preservation around Jackson.

A new report outlines the steps local officials could take to promote historic preservation and ensure that future development around Town Square fits with Jackson’s Western atmosphere.

The report, from Denver-based consultants Winter and Company, is based on feedback from workshops earlier this year and hundreds of survey responses from Teton County residents in which they gave their perspectives on what constitutes the essence of Jackson Hole.

The 170-page document is broadly split into two parts: The first explores preservation mechanisms, and the second is a stylistic philosophy to guide future development and zoning.

An open house, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Lodge at Jackson Hole, will give the community a chance to review the report and offer input on the progress.

After the workshop Tuesday, the consultants will meet with the Town Council from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall.

With regard to preservation, the report recommends creating a “robust suite of incentives” that would give property owners — regardless of the type of property or the circumstances — good reason to retain historic structures. The report doesn’t offer any strategies that involve regulation, and Planning Director Paul Anthony said that’s a deliberate choice.

“This is really an incentive-based exercise,” he said. “We’re not really looking to be punitive or regulatory.”

Some incentives, like the federal income tax credit for certified historic structures, are already available to owners who rehabilitate income-producing properties that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Others would require more work on the part of the local government or private nonprofits. Preservation easements would allow property owners to either donate or sell control of parts of a building or site. Such easements could be held and maintained by the town or a nonprofit.

Officials could also consider a sales tax rebate for construction materials purchased locally or a financial assistance program to provide grants or loans to historic restoration projects.

They could also ease certain regulations for historic properties. For example, they could waive or reduce parking requirements for these properties or exclude the floor area of a historic building from the maximum square footage allowed on a site. They could also make it easier to obtain development permits or to build additions on a site.

Aside from those incentives, there remains the question of which properties they should be used to preserve.

In June, some 80 people attended workshops to give their thoughts on historic preservation, and another 300 or so completed a survey online. Essentially, they looked at pictures of various kinds of buildings around town and determined which they thought were most important to preserve.

The results are mostly predictable. Structures that reflect Jackson’s Western heritage, like log cabins and early 20th-century commercial buildings (think Jackson Drug), were deemed more valuable than midcentury structures. So were early resort-era ski lodges, and iconic buildings like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the Old Wilson Schoolhouse.

The survey and workshops also sought opinions on specific structures and landmarks. Many popped up again and again, including Town Square, the Genevieve block, the fairgrounds, the wooden boardwalks, Karns Meadow, Snow King and The Wort Hotel.

Given that those “historic resources” are spread so widely across town, the report recommends focusing preservation policies on individual locations and features rather than creating a broader historic district.

Separate but related to these historic preservation policies, the town also wants to update its design guidelines for Town Square and the commercial center around it. The area has largely retained its traditional appearance, but there is little to prevent developers from straying from the Western motifs that contribute to that.

The report divides the greater downtown district into “subarea 1.1” — the inner square — and “subarea 1.2 — the outer square.

For the former, the “symbolic heart of the community,” the report suggests a smaller sense of scale than elsewhere, along with a “more conservative palette of primary building materials” — namely, more wood and stone, with muted colors. The community “clearly stated” that the buildings here should not be over two stories, according to the report.

In subarea 1.2, the report argues, the design should still be predominantly Western, though expressed more subtly. More building height may be acceptable there, along with more variety in building materials.

The report contains many details about specific design and preservation recommendations. The full version is attached to this article online in PDF form.

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.

(1) comment

William Addeo

It’s already too late for Jackson. Look at the new commercial buildings in the last ten years. Ugly is putting it mildly. Western is laughable. Big square boxes is a good description. Cheap eye sores is more accurate. When California people touch anything they destroy it. Look around, it’s Hollywood settling into Jacks.

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.