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Green light for national chain
Construction on West Broadway Walgreens could begin in spring.
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: December 5, 2012
The Jackson Town Council cleared the way for Walgreens on a prominent corner of West Broadway.
The council agreed unanimously at a meeting Monday to allow developers to build a 13,300-square-foot, one-story retail building for the national pharmacy franchise.
During the town planning process, some criticized the chain store as out of line with Jackson’s character and the new comprehensive land-use plan.
Residents wrote letters saying a Walgreens would compete with local business and wasn’t necessary.
But town officials were generally supportive of the project.
“I find it a very engaging building,” Mayor Mark Barron said at the meeting. “It’s kind of an oasis from the busyness of Broadway.”
The final development plan, approved at the meeting, also includes a separate, 2,000-square-foot employee housing building.
After hearing the criticism and questions over the last two months from the Design Review Committee and the Jackson Planning Commission, Colorado Springs, Colo.-based developers Bencor Inc. altered the project to include public art, bike racks and sidewalks connected to a pathway that will be built along West Broadway.
“Walgreens and Bencor have been bending over backwards to tell us as a design team that this is not a typical Walgreens,” Hawtin Jorgensen Architects’ Arne Jorgensen said Tuesday. “One of the illustrations of that is the public space discussion.”
Walgreens typically does not go to this much effort to accommodate the local community, Jorgensen said. He pointed to the public art and additional walkways as examples of the company’s good faith. The siding of the building — wood screening — is also unique for the chain pharmacy.
Town leaders liked the changes.
But some still worried Monday about the extent to which the Walgreens building would involve the public space next to the road. They also said they would prefer to see more built on the lot.
The new land-use plan allows tall, dense development along the north side of West Broadway, partially in an effort to block the scarred hillside from view.
“I think this is the first time I’m disappointed that an applicant isn’t putting more development on to a property,” Councilwoman Melissa Turley said.
Turley said she liked the commitment from the developers to address the public space, but would like to see it be more engaging. She suggested adding picnic tables or more bike racks.
But after months of debate, all council members said they were comfortable enough with the project to grant it approval.
The decision comes after numerous critiques and tweaks to the plan were offered by the Design Review Committee and the Jackson Planning Commission.
The Design Review Committee voted 3-3 on the project, with some members calling the store’s plans “monolithic.”
The planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the project to the council, but not before questioning whether it fit the new comprehensive land-use plan’s vision for dense, mixed-use development along the western entryway into town.
A resident writing to town officials said a Walgreens would be an “eyesore.”
“Jackson prides itself in being small, promoting local business,” Jackson resident Della Holmes said in an email. “Why is there a need for a Walgreens?”
Town officials also received public comment in favor of the proposal.
Michael Pruett, who served on the town planning commission for seven years, said the competition provided by Walgreens would be good for residents, just as Albertsons and Smith’s Food and Drug have helped the local business community. A Walgreens would supply residents with “reasonable, low-priced prescription drugs,” he said
Architects working on the Walgreens said those who fear the development will be too large are mistakenly comparing it to big box stores in Jackson.
“A lot of people that were using those comments had in mind the larger buildings — Smith’s, K-Mart, Albertsons,” Jorgensen said.
This building will be much smaller and should be compared to Jack Dennis Outdoors or Shervin’s Indpendent Oil Center, he said.
The council agreed with Jorgensen’s take.
“I don’t find it monolithic,” Councilor Mark Obringer said. “I’m sure the building next door is three to four times the size of this one.”
Council members added one more requirement at Monday’s meeting: public art. Bencor will work with Jackson Hole Public Art Director Carrie Geraci to choose a piece.
At the meeting, Geraci said $25,000 will be set aside for the art installation and it could potentially be an interactive piece.
Representatives of Bencor were present at the meeting to hear the council’s ruling, but they did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Walgreens District Manager Jerry Patton also attended the meeting and did not return a call.
Construction on the Walgreens could begin in March or April, Jorgensen said.