News Tidbits 8/9/14: Can You Infill Me In?

9 08 2014

1. The city’s trying to balance its budget with the help of some land sales. In this instance, the property in question is 707 E. Seneca, a property just outside inner Collegetown, in the East Hill Historic District. The land was conveyed to the city in 1982 for use as a park/green space (it had been a school playground), but the land wasn’t maintained, and ended up become an unkempt vacant lot. After a few rounds of voting during the spring and early summer, the city has voted to put it to sale through the IURA (Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency). According to the county, the lot’s assessed price is $100,000, not bad for 1/6th of an acre. The site would be sold with deed restrictions to keep it from becoming a parking lot, and any new build (likely a single family or student house) will have to match the rest of the neighborhood. But it’s future infill, it’s money in the city’s pocket, and it’s less tax-exempt property.


2. Speaking of infill, a project that fell to the back-burner due to neighborhood opposition is making a comeback. Revised 128 West Falls Street plans here (original plans here). Readers might recall this Fall Creek infill project by Heritage Builders hit a wall when neighbors complained that the project was just too much. In the revised proposal, which architect Larry Fabbroni says was designed with neighbor input and support, the number of units remains the same (5), but the two large houses next to 13 have been completely redesigned. House #2 is now designed to look like two separate houses (but they share a foundation, so they aren’t), and House #3 is shorter and less, uh, avant-garde. A lot variance is still required, so if this project finally received approval, expect it to be no earlier than this fall.



3. More than one person pointed out to me the Ithaca Times’ article regarding the Ithaca hotel boom. It’s actually a pretty thoughtful piece, but for those with not much time or short attention spans, here’s the spark note version:

-There’s still demand for more hotel rooms in Ithaca, but it’s getting closer to market saturation. R0om-nights (occupancies) are down, but rates are up, and compared to neighboring metros, Ithaca is still pretty damn lucrative, and demand is relatively strong for the time being.

-The convention center as part of the Hotel Ithaca is on hold. Major boo. The convention center has major potential to grow Ithaca’s hospitality market by giving the city the ability to host medium-sized (500+ person) conventions, because multiple hotels are required to adequately host those events. It would also help ease the weekend-weekday disparity, where demand is red hot for weekends, and tepid during the week.


4. On the topic of Times articles, here’s a piece about Fane’s 12-story juggernaut. I’m just curious, do I qualify as the “local media” they cite? If yes, I’m flattered. But, at least their article isn’t just a rehash of what’s already been written. Called “Collegetown Tower”, the building would house 250-300 tenants, easily making it the highest capacity private building in inner Collegetown (I phrase it like that because Cornell’s Cascadilla Hall is in the same range). In an email to the Times, Fane envisions a “high-quality” food retailer and two other stores.

Although Fane says it’s a serious proposal, I still find it curious that there were no interior layouts created for the residential floors yet; I still think he’s just testing the waters to see what reactions are. Whatever the case, I can’t say I’m a fan of this:

“He stressed that if the project does not garner the necessary support at this time, he would wait until that time arrives.”

In other words, get used to that empty storefront. A 12-story, ~140′ building is unlikely to pass in a location where there was very contentious debate over 90′ (and even that had setbacks after 60′). 90′ feet barely passed the Collegetown Committee, and the opposition was so vocal that the city tried to reduce the zoning (and failed).

But don’t my word for it. The Ithaca Times came out against the height increase.


5. I remember being confused about this when I saw it in the news, and my confusion was merited – the town did not deny Greenways, because it was never formally presented and voted on…also, per the Times article I quoted, I was wrong about it being approved in July, but it has received preliminary approval as of the 5th. The inherent risk in writing about these projects is misinterpretation, and I’m as guilty as the rest.





7 responses

9 08 2014

I use to pass through that land for sale every day on my way to East Hill School in the late 50s and early 60s. As I recall it seemed a touch steep back then.

Has there been any mention of when the Marriott might actually break ground?

I agree that the convention center is required to keep those hotel rooms full. And I got the feeling there might be a serious problem if Mr. Hart wouldn’t commit to the convention venue as a certainty.

9 08 2014
B. C.

Marriott should start site prep some time this month, if the developer’s timelines stay the course.

I’m getting the unnerving feeling that construction loans are the big obstacle. It was what held up the Marriott for a while, and I suspect it’s the primary issue here with the convention center. I dunno the market dynamics for a convention center, but there’s probably a reason that many are owned by their respective city/county governments.

9 08 2014

Just to clarify is the convention center and the Marriott one in the same or are they two different but related projects? Are they both on hold or is just the convention center on hold?

9 08 2014
B. C.

The convention center is part of the Hotel Ithaca and is on hold. The Marriott is a different project, and its developers intend to begin site prep this summer, with construction through late 2015.

The Ithaca Times article raises the alarm of more hotels going up without the convention center, and hitting market saturation. I think in the short-term, the market should be able to accommodate, but the convention center will be crucial to long-term success for hotel growth downtown.

12 08 2014
Tom Richmond

Jason Fane is not as young as he once was, and, as all mortals, will die someday. At that time his properties will pass to others who perhaps value Ithaca as a community more than he did his pocketbook. His ‘legacy’ in Ithaca will blow away in the dust, and nobody will ever care who he was. In this case I think I will take the Devil I don’t know, rather than the one I do. Holding pivotal properties around Ithaca for decades, essentially for ransom against the city’s regulation for the good of the community, is a moral crime even if it is not a legal crime.

23 08 2014
News Tidbits 8/23/14: Soooo Much Rendering | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] Now for something different. The vacant parcel at 707 East Seneca, discussed here previously, is being offered for sale at $175,000, well above its assessed value of $100,000. The […]

6 09 2014
News Tidbits 9/6/14: What Makes A Neighborhood? | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] from the IJ. The first one is about the 128 West Falls Street development (previously discussed here), and the negotiations done with neighbors in order to make the project acceptable to the […]

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