With a new name and a warm reception from the Jackson Town Council, the 100% deed restricted 57-unit Jackson Street Apartments project is moving toward the final stage of review.
“When I get stressed out and depressed about the state of the world or the state of the town, I think of things like this and individuals making donations like this,” Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson said of the project, which Housing Director April Norton presented to the council last week. “I can’t say enough how excited I am.”
Formerly dubbed the Red House Apartments, the newly named Jackson Street Apartments are a partnership between the Jackson/Teton County Housing Department, Teton County and the Cumming Foundation. The latter is a philanthropic vehicle for the family of the late Ian Cumming, a financier who moved to Jackson Hole in the 1990s, owned Park City and Snowbird resorts and was a major donor to the Utah Democratic Party. He was working on the project before he died in 2018, and his family has since picked up the mantle.
As it stands, the apartments, all rentals, are set to provide a mix of deed restricted “affordable” units, which are reserved for local workers of certain incomes, and restricted “workforce” units, which do not have income caps and are generally intended for households who make more than 120% of median family income. That’s roughly $97,000 a year for a one-person household, and $138,000 for a household with four members. “Affordable” units are generally reserved for people who make less than that, though specifics vary.
“It’s the largest-ever fully deed restricted development in the county,” Norton told the News&Guide Tuesday.
The Jackson Street Apartments will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units — 112 bedrooms in total — with 64 dedicated parking spaces, the ability to park on-street in the summer, 120-plus bike spots, and a community garden on the property’s southwest corner.
All told, the proposed complex splits over 10 city lots, with four on the southeast being donated by Teton County in exchange for 15 rights-of-first-rentals for its employees. The remaining six lots on the north side of the property, which is across the street from Snake River Brewing, are being donated by the Cumming Foundation. The county is funneling $5 million towards the project, and the Cumming Foundation another $10 million, Norton said.
And, as planning wraps up, the project team is heading toward applying for a building permit.
Before that, the town’s design review committee will need to finish discussing the project’s lighting, sidewalks, and plans for trees and other foliage around its outer perimeter — a conversation set for Jan. 8. Then, Norton said she’ll bring a final proposal to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners sometime after the New Year.
The goal of that meeting will be to get the go-ahead to submit for the building permit, and finalize the county’s land donation.
Then there will be a demolition, ideally removal of the homes on the property by Shacks on Racks for other people’s future use, and groundbreaking. The goal is to put shovels in the ground during the summer of 2022.
With supply chain disruptions, Norton indicated it would take until 2024 to finish the building.
Last Monday, the Town Council was given an opportunity to review the proposal and the public was given an opportunity to comment because of the substantial public involvement in the project.
Councilors and people who spoke at the meeting were generally receptive to the proposal. They were particularly gracious in their praise of Norton’s department for its work and the Cumming family for its donation to the project.
“This is one more great example of the power of philanthropy in our community to create some amazing stuff,” Councilor Jim Rooks said. “I don’t think it would be happening without his family’s foundation and his generosity.”
Jessica Jaubert was similarly effusive.
“Jackson Street Apartments represents exactly the type of project we need in our community,” she said. “This project represents years and years of hard work, especially from April and her staff. And they’ve done a phenomenal job of outreaching to neighbors, the community and community stakeholders and incorporating that feedback.”
Norton, for her part, said her department had a few goals when it started working on the project four years back. Among them: creating a livable community accessible to working class families and setting up a model for building affordable housing that’s scalable, meaning it’s durable, “doesn’t break the bank,” and is in line with town code.
“I think we are achieving all of this in this project and probably more,” Norton told councilors.
The project comes as Jackson Hole deals with a widespread housing crisis that has pushed rents sky high, made the cost of buying a home prohibitive for most Teton County workers, further limited supply for locals as new residents arrive in Jackson, and pushed more workers over Teton Pass and down into Lincoln County, areas that are experiencing housing pinches of their own.
Average monthly rent for a studio apartment at Jackson’s four largest apartment complexes is now over $2,000. And Norton said last week that new data from the Housing Needs Assessment, forthcoming in January, shows that people who make less than 80% of median family income — roughly $64,000 for a single-family household and $92,000 for a household of four — pay the largest percentage of their income for rent. And she said the Housing Department has over 800 families on its intake form looking for a place to live.
“There are a lot of people in our community who are desperate for affordable housing that’s stable,” Norton said. “That’s where this project comes in.”
Councilors and people who gave comment did have some reservations.
Morton Levinson, Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen and Councilor Jessica Sell Chambers all said they would have liked to see more units, but were OK with where Norton’s department landed.
Norton told the News&Guide that the project’s scale is what it is because community engagement work with neighbors, nonprofits like One22 and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and advocacy groups like Shelter JH and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance led them to the design.
“What we heard from folks is a lot of support for the current bulk and scale,” Norton said. “People were OK with fewer units but only if the units were livable,” meaning they were nice enough for people to call home for five or 10 years rather than a shorter period of time.
There was also worry about removing the old evergreens on the property’s southwest corner — something officials said would be mitigated by planting more trees — ensuring that the intersection of South Jackson Street and Kelly Avenue is safe with the new development, and whether the amount of parking proposed is enough.
Councilor Jim Rooks wondered whether the Housing Department could limit the number of vehicles tenants own, worried about the difference between the 112 bedrooms and 64 spots.
“I’m curious about mitigation efforts to ensure that we don’t have overflow parking,” he said. “Because I think it could be pretty significant.”
Town Planning Director Paul Anthony said there are 25 spots on the streets directly adjacent to the proposed complex. But those aren’t available over the winter, when the town closes streets to parking. And Rooks and others were worried about apartment parking spilling onto other streets.
Norton, in turn, said permits were possible.
But she didn’t say for sure whether the complex would require them. Other councilors debated the issue and didn’t come to a firm conclusion.
“We have got to draw the line somewhere,” Councilor Jessica Sell Chambers said. “I do think we need to start planning for fewer cars, alternative transportation. And I think this is a really, really great project to reflect that.”
Up next is the town Design Review Committee’s January meeting about the Jackson Street Apartments. Then, the County Commission.
Norton said the plan is to take what was presented last week through to building permit, with the goal of getting nearly 60 deed-restricted units built before the end of the summer of 2024.