The property commonly known as the Genevieve Block embodies the character of Jackson in a way that few other properties in town do. The block was developed early in the town’s history and has remarkably stayed mostly intact, providing a unique cultural landscape and telling a story that spans more than a century. Blending a community green space shaded by mature trees, historic structures, and commercial properties, it provides a relaxed setting right down the street from the bustling Town Square. At a time when many locals feel that the growth of tourism is suffocating the very things that we love most about town, the block is a refreshing reminder of why so many of us choose to live here.
Like many in town, last fall we were troubled by the notion that this tranquil block would be redeveloped into a dense commercial property. Many of the mature cottonwood and spruce trees that dominate the block would be cut down, most of the historic structures that tell the story of Jackson’s early days would be removed, and the block’s character would be fundamentally altered. It felt that we were losing a critical part of our community’s history and a significant piece of our town’s present and future character. The community united in opposition to those development plans and articulated a desire to see the cultural character of the property remain intact.
When that development plan ultimately fell through, we were all hopeful, though not optimistic, that an opportunity would arise to protect the elements of the property that the town cherishes. Much to our delight, if not surprise, that moment is here. A local family now has the property under contract and has invested resources into creating a community-oriented outcome for the property with input in partnership with groups like ours (this family wishes to remain anonymous for now).
This plan addresses what the community has identified as priorities of the block, the protection of green space, historic structures, and community character. Importantly, this family is providing an opportunity to safeguard and preserve these critical elements of the property through green space and historic easements ensuring that the town’s residents will be able to enjoy this space in perpetuity. While this plan offsets some of the costs of preservation through thoughtful, modest development, it does not account for the full purchase price of the block. It is now time for the Jackson community to step up and fill that funding gap. Put simply, the community has received the time it asked for to develop a solution for saving the character of the Genevieve/Van Vleck block and it is up to us to respond with financial support. Our actions and involvement are likely to dictate the future of the property.
Given where we thought this block was headed six months ago, this is a remarkable turnaround, but it is still far from a certain outcome, which is why we are asking for the community’s help. The window for the purchase and protection of this project is short. The contract expires in August, meaning we have to move quickly. In the coming months there will be ample opportunities for community members to engage with this project. Every last dollar we can raise is going to be critical for preserving the cultural character of the block. Every gift at any size matters.