News Tidbits 11/8/14: Getting the Word Out

8 11 2014

1. Let me start by acting all civic-minded and promote the public meeting INHS is hosting for the Neighborhood Pride site in the Northside neighborhood of the city. November 12th, 4:30-7:30 PM, inside the former grocery at 210 Hancock Street. As Jason at Ithaca Builds noted a few months back, this will likely be the largest development on the north side since the 1950s.

Here’s why your opinion is important. The site has walking access to many local venues, affordable housing is in very high demand, and the site as it currently stands is underutilized and an easy target for vandalism. INHS is looking to avoid a repeat of the battle that happened with Stone Quarry, and is actively engaging with the community to see what will and won’t mesh with neighbors. In theory (under zoning and given some assumptions), the site could host nearly 200 units of housing.  The city has already expressed a strong preference for an owner-occupied housing component, and the city comprehensive plan supports some small-scale commercial uses at the site, with higher-density residential. There have even been reports that the Sciencenter is interested in playing a role. So that’s the sort of framework here; how much housing, what proportion of renters vs. owners, and what sort of mixed uses if any.

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2. Well, this isn’t good – according to the Ithaca Journal, recent findings by Unchained Properties, the developer for the Chain Works District (a.k.a. the Emerson redevelopment), suggest the site is even more contaminated than previously thought. While the developer has said it remains committed to the project, I dread an Ithaca Gun repeat, where continually-worse pollution causes the project to grind to a standstill. According to the purchase agreement that Unchained Properties has with Emerson (which although it closed up shop in 2010, still owns the site), Emerson pays for all the remediation, which I suppose they’re okay with if it means getting rid of the site from their asset lists. A draft environmental impact statement is due for submission sometime after Christmas, with several city/town/developer meetings and discussions in the meanwhile.

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3. Now, I know everyone’s been complaining – we need more more suburban GeneriMerican chain restaurant boxes with ample parking. Your prayers have been answered! This time, the newcomer is DiBella’s, a chain sub sandwich restaurant based out of Rochester with about 43 locations scattered throughout six states in the Northeast and Midwest. Dibella’s “theme” is a vague 1930s/1940s look; the one near my office is just really dimly lit, reminiscent of my dead grandmother’s living room. Snark aside, the chain is looking to build a 3,400 sq ft building on an outparcel pad property at 222 Elmira Road – just north of Five Guys, and behind the Ithaca Shopping Plaza. Follows the “real estate guidelines” on Dibella’s website near-perfectly. Cover letter here, site plan review application here, more drawings and renders here, full environmental assessment form here. The application states that the construction cost will be about $600,000 and the time frame is from February to August 2015. They’ll need a BZA variance for lot coverage, which I don’t foresee being an issue. The plan is by NYC-based Marx Realty. It’s tax money, it’s “5+/-” jobs. Meh.

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4. Some minor revisions to 114 Catherine, new renders here. Compared to the previous iteration, it has a little more detailing on the concrete base, and they changed up the panes in those corner windows. here’s the traffic plan, which kinda just states that students have access to buses, bike racks, delivery space and a little parking in the rear, and their own two feet. This one’s pretty much good to go for approval.

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5. Friday the 7th, the county has another meeting to discuss the Old Library site, this one to finalize and release the actual RFP. For those interested in going tomorrow, it’s at 3 PM in the Heyman conference room at 125 East Court Street. I have a major concern here – the final choice on developer was supposed to be in March 2015. Now it’s January 2016. The county is putting an additional strain on all the proposals, because labor and material costs are increasing. This has the potential to remove desirable features from projects, or cause developers to simply walk away. The county was very fortunate to have six expressions of interest for the site; two have already walked away. If the county doesn’t get its act together or is perceived to be acting in bad faith, the potential is there for very few or no proposals when the due date comes in March 2015. It will be a very uncomfortable day for the legislature if that happens.

6. This could be interesting – according to the Times, the Maguire family (the ones with all the car dealerships) are proposing a new set of dealerships on the site of the current Rodeway Inn, south of the city on Rte. 13. The inn is looking to move to California (claiming the hotel boom is hurting his business) and the Maguires are proposing the following moves:

>Move sales of their Subaru-Hyundai, Fiat-Alfa Romeo, and Nissan dealerships — from Elmira Road out to the new site in the town. The site is currently vacant land, and the Economy and Rodeway Inns would be removed.

>relocate its Chevrolet Cadillac dealership from Lansing to southwest Ithaca city, where a new building would be built

>renovate its Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership in front of Wegmans.

It sounds like the only place losing business is Lansing. In a blend in all that is obnoxious and trendy in today’s planning, they’re calling it an “artisanal car dealership”. You sir, get a facepalm. Apparently, artisanal here means “modern architecture and a naturesque, university-style campus”. “Naturesque”. Another facepalm. Regardless of artisanal features, the project requires relocating the town’s proposed Saponi Meadows Park, and doesn’t fit with their comprehensive plan. Any movement on this will be slow (they tell the town they’re shooting for late 2015-2016 for a start date); but when those fancy artisanal renders come up, you’ll see copies of them here.


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5 responses

10 11 2014
DrillDeep

The Rodeay Inn is not competitive with new Ithaca hotels? It is just a few miles from where anyone needs to be, and it has a mosquito pond out front. It is a wonder it has not already closed up.

10 11 2014
B. C.

I seem to recall they had a plan for a small addition and renovation approved a year or two ago, but offhand I’m not sure they ever went forward with it. It’s only about 20 rooms, so its loss would hardly affect the market.

11 11 2014
Cornell PhD

1. It’d be nice if public authorities – not just in Ithaca – provided more well-advertised and easily accessible means of commenting on projects other than being forced to attend a three hour meeting that will inevitably be dominated by people who happen to have excesses of free time.

2. How many sub sandwich shops can one little town sustain!? If more chains are going to invade Ithaca, is a little variety too much to ask for?

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

[…] Here’s a site plan render of those “artisanal” car dealerships proposed by the Maguires. Both budget motels come down, but the “mosquito pond” as one commenter described it […]

20 06 2015
News Tidbits 6/20/15: Big and Far, Small and Near | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] door/window configuration. The building is now contiguous with the main shopping strip, no longer isolated from the rest of the stores by a driveway. No decisions are expected to be made at the June Planning Board meeting, it’s more of an […]

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