The historic former St. John’s nurses quarters on North Glenwood Street still have life, but that lifespan now has a drop-dead date. At least, unless or until the buildings are moved to another location.
The Jackson Town Council agreed Monday to a compromise with a developer whom they said has operated in “good faith” throughout the construction of a luxury condominium development, opting for a shorter demolition stay than the 90-day stay requested by the Teton County Historic Preservation Board.
Instead, the council opted to impose a 58-day stay, or until Dec. 1, after posing a number of questions to the developer, S.R. Mills of Bear Development LLC, based in Wisconsin, about Bear’s desired timeline for the homes to be removed from the property at 157 and 165 N. Glenwood St.
Mills told councilors his goal is to have the site cleared by Dec. 15 and the Dec. 1 deadline for having the homes removed so crews could complete site work by that date would be ideal. Mills said that he has been working with some local residents for years to try to find a buyer for the two homes and the property upon which they sit. One of those residents, Brigid Mander, who led that effort, previously told the News&Guide that Mills had offered the two properties for about $7 million total. On Monday, Mills said “unfortunately we weren’t able to find a benefactor to step in and do that.” During that period, Mills noted, he and Bear Development had secured a previous demolition permit which they abandoned as the effort to save the historic houses was ongoing.
So, Mills said, more recently he has been working with Esther Judge Lennnox, of Shacks on Racks, to find suitable locations to relocate the homes and avoid their demolition.
“We’re hopeful that — and I spoke to Esther over at Shacks on Racks — that we can get both homes moved prior to the end of November,” Mills said. “So, that would allow us the opportunity to demolish the foundation, and do all the necessary utility caps and demo that’s necessary to move them prior to that. In talking to Esther before this meeting, she seemed she was on board and it seems like those timetables will be able to be met, so it should work fine.”
Houses seek new home
In fact, local property owner Dwayne Meadows was at the meeting and told councilors that he and his wife, Laura Lynn Meadows, would be happy to have the front home at 165 N. Glenwood St. moved to their property on the West Bank.
“So, I’m the willing taker. That said, we need time,” Dwayne Meadows said, explaining that the Meadows just learned about the opportunity last Wednesday.
Judge Lennox, whose nonprofit’s aim is to preserve historic homes and structures by relocating them and sparing them the wrecking ball, said she’s intrigued by the prospect of saving one, if not both, of the old houses.
“I’m really excited for the potential to save this structure,” she said. “I do think that a [demolition] stay on some level is appropriate. I do appreciate the way that the slate is laid out in the sense of specific timing for the structures, and I do think that the demolition permit should be contingent on if we can get them out if this pulls together for Dwayne in the appropriate amount of time.
“I think we need to honor S.R.’s time frame on it and do absolutely everything we can in the meantime. And it is totally possible, so I look forward to being able to relocate it if the stars align.”
Mander has spent a good part of the last two years of her life working to save the houses. She has lived in the front house for more than six years and said she thinks this “is the best outcome, like a baby Phoenix in the ashes of our project.”
Repurposing an option
“S.R. displayed, I think, relatively infinite patience for a developer, so thanks for that,” Mander said. “In the absence of finding that benefactor, being able to supply two homes out of this would be a really wonderful outcome.”
Mills has pledged $100,000 from Bear Development to help pay for the removal of the homes to other sites. If a permanent site isn’t found for the back house at 157 N. Glenwood, Mills said his crews will disassemble the home in such a fashion that its antique materials could be repurposed or reused on other projects and would not go to waste in the landfill.
Councilor Jonathan Schechter said he didn’t see any downside to the council imposing the 90-day stay on demolition, which was recommended by the Teton County Historical Board, as long as Mills and Bear Development could move forward with their site work if the homes were moved at any time prior to the stay lapsing.
Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen, who presided over Monday night’s meeting with Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson absent, urged the council to be accommodating to the applicant “in recognition of the work” the developer has done with community members interested in preserving the buildings.
“It would have been in the applicant’s interest to remove these buildings a year ago,” Jorgensen said. “It would have saved him significant money ... and I think it’s reasonable for us to be cooperative and work with him, if for no other reason to send a message to other developers and other property owners that we are interested in working collaboratively.”
Councilor Jessica Sell Chambers moved to impose the 58-day stay until Dec. 1, during which time the structures can be removed but only for preservation and not just salvaging materials. Councilor Jim Rooks seconded the motion, which passed 4-0 in Mayor Morton Levinson’s absence.
Mills and Bear Development will be able to proceed with site work if the buildings have been relocated prior to Dec. 1.