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The existing building is virtually unrecognizable in this elevation drawing for a proposed renovation of the former Ketchum post office.

If plans proceed as expected, a building on the corner of Sun Valley Road and First Avenue in Ketchum that formerly housed the Ketchum Innovation Center and earlier a post office will be renovated to have three retail spaces and a second floor with two condominiums.

In response to a design review application filed by Wilson Construction, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission conducted a site visit at 311 N. First Ave. on Tuesday and approved the document hours later.

Four P&Z commissioners met outside the 7,755-square-foot building, also known as the old post office.

As a projected blend of commercial and residential space, the building will acquire 6,550 additional square feet and a second floor. The first floor will acquire three new retail spaces and additional community housing units, according to Ketchum Associate Planner Abby Rivin.

The building is slated for remodeling in the next two months and tenants have yet to be determined, property owner Dave Wilson said.

“The retail space is flexible—it’s designed to house three [units], but there could end up being one,” he said.

Wilson’s proposed mixed-use project is represented by Ketchum architectural firm Ruscitto Latham Blanton Architectura. With a stack of blueprints in hand, architect Buffalo Rixon stood outside the building to brief a small crowd of commissioners, city planners and potential tenants on renovation improvements.

Amenities will include a communal rooftop terrace with landscape planters, private decks for the upstairs condominiums and public bike racks and seating areas, he said. An enclosed parking garage will also connect to the alley on the west side of the building.

After its proposed façade overhaul, the building will feature vertical wood siding and a natural color palette to complement Ketchum’s mountain backdrop.

One of the property configurations pointed out on Tuesday was its “bulb-out,” a curb projection that Ketchum currently prohibits. Bulb-outs can complicate snow removal, Rixon said, but they also have benefits: They can slow traffic and provide adequate space for rest and socialization.

“We’d like to keep the bulb because it works great on a pedestrian level and will make a nice landing zone,” he said.

Wilson said the bulb-out would help support Ketchum’s walkability and bike-friendly feel with its extra bike racks and seating. It wouldn’t have to be removed if a right-of-way encroachment agreement is made with the City Council, Rivin said.

Following the outdoor inspection, the P&Z board reconvened in City Hall to examine Wilson’s design review application and vote on it.

The collective vision of the project shared between Rixon and Wilson was met with strong P&Z support.

“The design is quintessentially Ketchum,”

Commissioner Matthew Mead said. “I think it’s going to add vibrancy to the downtown area and become a good corner anchor.”

The Ketchum Planning & Building De-partment stated in a report that Wilson’s pro-

perty aligns with three core community values: a strong and diverse economy, a vibrant downtown and a variety of housing options.

Commissioner Kurt Eggers praised the applicant’s readiness to conform to city code despite being “grandfathered into a property” with outdated infrastructure.

“You should be commended—I applaud your effort to recycle this building,” Eggers told Rixon and Wilson.

The P&Z settled on adding three conditions of approval to the application.

First, the back wall would need to be painted a different color to break up the building’s block-like aesthetic.

“It looks like a giant rectangle in [Rixon’s] plan. … On such an important street it seems to me people should gather in spaces that are more unique,” Commissioner Jennifer Cosgrove said.

Next, the rooftop garden would need to be maintained well into the future.

“It needs to stay a rooftop garden and not become a basketball court,” Commissioner Neil Morrow said to a round of laughter. “In 10 years, we’ll still want to see a garden there.”

Third, the bike racks would need to be accessible from both sides to maximize public use.

“This is becoming an increasingly pedestrian-friendly area, and ideally you would want people to leave their bikes [on the bulb] and shop,” Mead said.

The property was last listed on Idaho Mountain Real Estate for $2.55 million.

“I’m very happy to see the building get reused. It’s an improvement from what we’re seeing now,” Commissioner Tim Carter said.

After all new conditions were recorded, Commissioner Tim Carter authorized Morrow to sign the findings of fact and conclusions of law document to officially launch the renovation.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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