News Tibits 9/18/09: New Six-Story Apt. Building Proposed

18 09 2009
  Proposed Building on Left, DeWitt Mall on Right


ecproject ithaca


The site is on the corner of Seneca and Cayuga Streets, currently the 1960s era Women’s Community Building. The six-story building is to hold 50 units of affordable apartment housing. As proposed, the building would require a zoning appeal, but local officials seem receptive to the project.

ITHACA — Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services has proposed a plan to demolish the Women’s Community Building and replace it with a six-story, affordable housing apartment complex, with community meeting space on the bottom floor.

Plans were first presented to Common Council’s planning committee Wednesday night.

The move would require the city to change zoning on the lot. Current zoning allows four stories and requires one off-street parking space per unit.

INHS is asking that the lot be changed to match the zoning on the other three corners — the Clinton House, the Masonic Temple and the DeWitt Mall — which allows six stories and requires no off-street parking.

Planning committee members were supportive of the change, saying it would help the city meet goals for downtown density and affordable housing. They also urged INHS to maintain the community meeting space currently provided in the Women’s Community Building.

INHS Executive Director Paul Mazzarella said it’s certainly the organization’s intention to keep the space, but that financing and other issues may make it difficult.

One of the reasons the property’s current owner, the City Federation of Women’s Organizations of Ithaca, has agreed to sell is because they make so little money renting the meeting space, he said.

“They’re empty probably 90 percent of the time,” he said. “Quite honestly, it costs money to build and maintain that space.”

If built as proposed, the property would come back onto the tax rolls, based on a state formula for affordable housing complexes, Mazzarella said. The entire property is currently tax exempt.

As proposed, INHS would build 25 one-bedroom and 25 two-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $300 to $1,000 per month.

City Planning Director JoAnn Cornish said the zoning change “makes sense” and Alderman Dan Cogan, D-5th, said the proposed project is “ideal.”

Though parking wouldn’t be required under the proposed zoning, Mazzarella said INHS plans to build 15 spaces on site.

Planning Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Dotson, I-1st, supported the zoning change and encouraged INHS to create green space rather than on-site parking.

To meet state funding deadlines, Common Council would have to approve the zoning change, and the city Planning Board would have to grant site plan approval, before next February, Mazzarella said.

The planning committee agreed to circulate a memo with more information on the project, and address the issue again next month.



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