Future of the Van Vleck block: Historic preservation & local business, or big hotel development?

Future of the Van Vleck block: Historic preservation & local business, or big hotel development?

This Wednesday, December 5, the Town Planning Commission will consider a rezone application for an iconic block in town. This block and its historic buildings were home to the family of Genevieve Van Vleck, a member of the 1920 all-female Jackson Town Council that made history as the first all-women’s government in the United States. Today, these buildings are home to beloved local businesses Cafe Genevieve, Persephone, and Healthy Being Juicery, which bring people together in the heart of our community. We believe that Jackson’s future should be true to its history and local community character, which includes our historic buildings, community spaces, and local businesses. We submitted the following comment letter to our Planning Commissioners – please join us in telling the Town what you would like to see for this special block’s future. Email council@townofjackson.com and tsinclair@jacksonwy.gov.

December 3, 2018

Re: Rezone for Van Vleck block / historic preservation

Dear Town Planning Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the rezone proposal for 135 and 175 East Broadway, commonly known as the Genevieve or Van Vleck block. The Alliance believes that we have a responsibility to write land use rules that align with our community’s vision as articulated in our Comprehensive Plan: ecosystem stewardship, growth management, and quality of life – which includes our history and our local businesses.

At its core, our quality of life and community character require that we sustain a true local community where we and our neighbors can look out for each other, coach youth sports, vote, volunteer with Search and Rescue, and steward our wildlife and ecosystem. Our community character is also our unique sense of place, which includes our historic buildings, community spaces, and local businesses. All of these are increasingly under threat from speculative commercial and hotel development. Local restaurants close and are replaced with banks, while families’ affordable homes are bulldozed and replaced by high-end condos or four- story corporate hotels. The identity we sell to our visitors is “the last of the Old West” – let’s be true to that slogan.

The Van Vleck block hosts a unique combination of important historic buildings like the Van Vleck Cabin (over 100 years old) and newer beloved local businesses like Café Genevieve, Persephone Bakery, and Healthy Being Juicery. These local businesses have quickly become part of the fabric of our community. Please shape policy to prioritize our well-loved small businesses over more big corporate chain hotels.

Additionally, please don’t spot-zone these parcels without a comprehensive approach to protecting our historic buildings and assets. Many peer communities have adopted historic preservation ordinances with a combination of smart regulation and incentives. As “the last of the Old West,” we can too. Please support the Historic Preservation Board in crafting an ordinance, and adopt it in 2019.

Then when you deal with zoning for this block and the other parcels left out of the District 2 rezone, please ask staff to present a full analysis of how much development would be allowed under current and proposed zoning – specifically, how much additional market-rate development would be allowed with the workforce housing bonus in the new zoning?

Overall, please do not fast-track this application, or any other applications on the historic parcels, until you have a historic preservation ordinance and zoning in place.

Thank you for your commitment to our community,

Skye Schell

Executive Director, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001