News Tidbits 2/10/14: A Big Project Scouts Out South Hill

10 02 2014


Well, I suppose if there’s demand, and a lack of easily developable to the north, west and east, suburban developers would have targeted South Hill for big projects sooner or later. Fresh from the press comes news of a proposed 216-unit development for the town of Ithaca, on two lots  just east of Troy Road, a little north from its intersection with King Road. The PDF of the plan is here, in the town agenda.


The proposed project is virtually all residential, divided up into 26 single-family lots, 80-120 apartments, 60 garden homes, 30 patio homes, and a 5,000 sq ft clubhouse with your lease office and a few office spaces for rent. To me, it has the airs of a cut-and-paste suburban development. For the record, a garden home is a cute way of saying townhome,  and patio homes are (in this case) one-story duplexes. The architecture theme is “rural agricultural” style: the apartment buildings will look similar to barns, and the patio homes will resemble small farmhouses. The target markets are empty nesters, and twenty-and thirty somethings (grad students and young professionals).

As easy as it to poo-poo this, there is a worse alternative – that which is currently okay under the zoning, which is 70 to 90 lots of low-density residential sprawl. This project, if it gets to proceed as a Planned Development Zone (PDZ) a la Ecovillage, would only disturb about 22 of the 67 acres the two lots comprise.  The project is being developed by Rural Housing Preservation Associates, which looks to be an awkward corporate offspring of a few development companies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and has enlisted the help of local companies STREAM Collaborative, Whitham Planning & Design, and Hunt EAS. Honestly, the armchair architecture critic in me is okay with those choices.

Something like this will have a multi-year buildout, and there’s been considerable development on South Hill in the past several years. But not anything on this scale. It’ll be interesting to watch this project evolve as it moves through the bureaucratic process.





8 responses

10 02 2014

Suburban growth like this doesn’t bother me.But I do wonder if continued development on South Hill will result in an Octopus situation like West Hill. There doesn’t seem to be too many vehicle alternatives for those trying to get downtown besides Aurora Street.

11 02 2014
w williams

Might this be primarily aimed at IC undergraduates in actuality? With all those (small) 1-2 bedroom apartments. As for the stated targets, I don’t think graduate students from Cornell are likely to cross the valley and IC has very few such creatures. If it indeed attracts to undergrads, it will quickly become unattractive to empty-nesters.

11 02 2014
B. C.

I would partially agree with that. IC undergrads are one of the easiest markets to tap into for filling the apartments, but there’s two reasons why I don’t think the developer will market to them. One, the project becomes a tougher sell to the town board. Given the rowdy behavior of many students, there is a stigma attached to renting to the undergraduate market, and neighbors may be more likely to object to the proposal. Two, as you pointed out, undergrads would repel their other target demographics. It will be harder to fill the non-apartment units if there are a couple hundred undergrads down the street. What I see happening is a sizable proportion of the apartments would be rented by undergrads (30-50%), but it would be an uneasy relationship with the rental office.

12 02 2014

I was at the presentation to the Town board, and the developers went to great lengths to explain that they would welcome language in the PDZ that expressly disallowed non-related household members, to keep it from becoming attractive to undergrads from IC. As per above, they, too, believe their target demographic would be repelled by the presence of undergrads.

Why, then, the focus on 1, or at most, 2-bedroom units? The developers repeatedly used terms such as “young family” and “small family.” I could be wrong, but I think the design is intended to attract relatively short-tenure “young” families (such as is typical of grad students) because the EcoVillage style landscaping is problematic as an outdoor living space for pre-teens and teenagers, who have an unfortunate tendency to set fires, do drugs, and make “camps” or “make-out spots” in woodsy areas adjacent to densely-populated developments that are not patrolled or policed, and are also quite distant from commercial areas and/or recreation facilities aimed at their age group. Interesting comment from very pro-development Town board member Pat Leary: “EcoVillage-style developments are the only type that seem to have a prayer of being approved here anymore.” The active agriculture at EcoVillage itself may tamp down this effect there….and, of course, as an “intentional community,” there may be more group pressure to get teens transported off the property for rec activities, or more effort to provide them on-site than a commercial developer would be able to organize profitably.

12 02 2014
Cornell PhD

Is there frequent enough bus service to Cornell to attract grad students out there? Hopefully developers are aware that there’s no (cheap) parking for us on campus, which means it’s not really worth it to live anywhere without decent public transportation.

If the town of Ithaca is so worried about the characteristics of its growth, I wish it’d adopt some kind of plan to extend the grid of the city of Ithaca a little bit in each director rather than moor future residents in isolated EcoVillage-like clumps. At least then walking places might be an option, and critical masses for enhanced transit service could be developed.

11 04 2014
The Keyword Bar XXI | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] would be the Troy Road development. Which from a planning/land use perspective, I become less and less a fan of every time I see it. […]

13 06 2014
News Tidbits 6/12/14: Predisposed to Being Opposed | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] on the layout and variety of housing on the property. The proposed development has whittled itself down from 216 to 166 units, and gone are the 26 lots for the single-family homes (leaving 90 apartments, 60 town […]

15 11 2014
News Tidbits 11/15/14: For Better Or Worse | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] Road housing development is about to begin. Some readers might recall this past winter, when it began as a 216-unit proposal. By August, it had entered red-tape hell, because neighbors were opposed to the PDZ it needed.  […]

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