News Tidbits 4/16/09: Little Ithaca Grows Up

17 04 2009

Looks like Ithaca’s downtown area is seeing some long awaited expansion.

http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20090416/NEWS01/904160358&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

Major downtown construction projects are slated to move forward this year, a sign of Ithaca’s relative resilience in troubled economic times, city officials say.

The Hotel Ithaca project at the eastern end of The Commons should break ground this fall, and construction is scheduled to start by summer on the Cayuga Green condominiums between the Cayuga garage and Six Mile Creek, Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said.

This summer should also see the completion and opening of the new Cinemapolis in the ground-floor of the Green Street garage and Urban Outfitters on the ground-floor of the Cayuga Green apartment complex.

Hotel and condos

The $30 million, 100-room Hotel Ithaca project this month received city approval for zoning variances, and Common Council approval to jut several feet over the top of the Green Street garage. It’s scheduled to come for site plan review to the Planning and Development Board April 28.

The $12 million, 7-story Cayuga Green luxury apartment/condo project is the last piece of the years-long Cayuga Green downtown development. It already has needed approvals.

Ferguson said when he talks with fellow economic development planners around the state, “they’re just green with envy.”

“One, we’ve been planning them for some time so it’s not like these are just popping out of the ground. But secondly, while the economy’s been rough, this still is a very strong economy relative to other parts of the state, other parts of the country,” he said. “I think this malaise, if you will, is worse in a lot of other places and actually makes Ithaca look even more attractive to people.”

Bankers still seem to have faith in Ithaca, said Phyllisa DeSarno, deputy director for economic development for the city. This is evidenced by the fact that Cayuga Green developer Ken Schon has retained his financial backing.

“We were all crossing our fingers . . . because so many developers are losing their funding and banks are not going with projects,” she said. “But he said it does not look like that’s going to be his issue. He is moving ahead.”

The Hotel Ithaca was proposed to go up to the limit of 85 feet allowed by zoning, but the project developer received approval to go up an additional 21 feet, in order to enclose the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Under the city’s zoning, that kind of equipment is never considered part of a building’s height.

“This was a very, very major coup, really,” DeSarno said. “We were so thrilled that this happened because it sets a bar now I think for other developers, other builders to do something about mechanicals, which are really such a blight. When you’re coming off any of the hills, coming down from Ithaca College or Cornell (University), it’s going to be so much more aesthetically nice to have that screening there.”

The rooftop enclosure will also include meeting and conference space “to offset the cost of the structure,” according to information provided to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Openings

Construction continues on the future homes of Cinemapolis and Urban Outfitters on either side of Green Street.

Cinemapolis is scheduled to open in late May, potentially in conjunction with Ithaca Festival, said Lynne Cohen, one of the executive directors of Seventh Art, which oversees Cinemapolis.

Construction is scheduled to be complete in about a week, then all that will be left is to paint and install seating, projection equipment and refreshment equipment, Cohen said.

“With a little imagination, you can see what the theater’s going to look like,” she said.

Compared to the existing Cinemapolis theaters in Center Ithaca and at Fall Creek Pictures, the new location will have “fewer seats but better allocated,” Cohen said.

Cinemapolis’ contract at Fall Creek Pictures runs through the end of this year, but Seventh Art has not yet decided whether they’ll continue showing films there once the new location opens, said Rich Szanyi, Cohen’s husband and another Seventh Art executive director.

Tsvi Bokaer, founder of Fall Creek Pictures, could not be reached for comment.

Urban Outfitters, which will occupy the eastern half of the ground floor under the Cayuga Green apartments, is on schedule to open July 2, project architect David Levy said by email.

“Now obviously Urban Outfitters will be a big draw and all of the neighbors around Urban Outfitters, including The Commons, will benefit from them being here,” DeSarno said.

Ithaca will be the second Upstate New York location for college-age focused Urban Outfitters. The other is in Buffalo.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit also plans to rent space on the ground floor of the apartments, and Schon is in discussion with two local small businesses about filling the remaining area, DeSarno said.

“Obviously there are cuts throughout our city and the county in our businesses and in our employers,” she said. “But we certainly, like Bob Sweet from National Development Council always says to me, ‘(Ithaca is) an oasis amongst a muck and mire.’ ”

The Hotel Ithaca was proposed to go up to the limit of 85 feet allowed by zoning, but the project developer received approval to go up an additional 21 feet, in order to enclose the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Under the city’s zoning, that kind of equipment is never considered part of a building’s height.

“This was a very, very major coup, really,” DeSarno said. “We were so thrilled that this happened because it sets a bar now I think for other developers, other builders to do something about mechanicals, which are really such a blight. When you’re coming off any of the hills, coming down from Ithaca College or Cornell (University), it’s going to be so much more aesthetically nice to have that screening there.”

The rooftop enclosure will also include meeting and conference space “to offset the cost of the structure,” according to information provided to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

~~~

For the record:

commons

Red box is part of the Hotel Ithaca site, green box is the Cayuga Green Condos site. Cayuga Green Apts, shown as under construction in this map, are where Cinemapolis and Urban Outfitters are going to be located. As Mr. Nagowski noted, Cinemapolis will be in the garage side of the construction area. Urban Outfitters is on the first floor of the apartment building.

Hotel Ithaca proposal:

http://www.gemstoneresorts.com/Properties.aspx

Cayuga Condos

http://www.josegarciadesign.com/images/cayuga-condo00.jpg

For reference, the height of Seneca Place is 121 feet, according to Emporis. The new apartment building on Green Street is 60 feet.


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3 responses

17 04 2009
MNagowski

I think the cinema is going to be on the North Side of Green Street. And is Hotel Ithaca really going to fit in that tiny sliver of land to the west of Aurora St. and north of Green Street? I had thought it was going to be east of Aurora St. and south of East State.

17 04 2009
B. C.

Oops, I’d better fix the Cinemapolis goof. As for the Ithaca Hotel site, that’s a good question, since the land is described as “a triangular plot of land”, which is rather vague. Here’s a quote from the CNY Business Journal in October 2008:

http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/tax-law-property-tax/11713501-1.html

“The “Hotel Ithaca” will be located at the corner of State and Aurora streets at the edge of the Ithaca Commons. Both Rimland Equities and Gemstone chose the name in reference to the landmark Ithaca Hotel, which stood on the same property for decades before it was torn down as part of the urban renewal of the 1960s.”

Today, the Center Ithaca Building on the Commons stands on the original Hotel Ithaca site.

Another reason why I think it’s west of Aurora is that the company planning the hotel had to seek approval to build an over the Green Street Garage by 9 feet. The site that you’ve mentioned is home to the Trebloc Building. So, in conclusion, the red box may not have the right dimensions (the front of the building will probably face Green Street, with the sides facing Aurora), but I’m reasonably sure that the red box is at least part of the site.

3 05 2009
Ex-Ithacan

Not sure, but I think this may be the 7 story version of the Cayuga Green condos:

[img]http://www.warrenhomes.com/ijfeed/126279_0.jpg[/img]

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