News Tidbits 12/13/14: ‘Tis the Season For Development Slowdown

13 12 2014


1. Leading off, the NYS Regional Economic Development Council Awards. In other words, the annual event where the state takes its economic aid money and an impartial committee is supposed to examine and decide who gets more or less money. It’s supposed to be competitive. I’d rather see the taxes not be collected in the first place.

Tompkins County gets placed in the “Southern Tier” category, which has been in the middle of the pack most years (as has its regional neighbor, “Finger Lakes”). Those two were 3rd and 4th this year out of 10, with a little over $80 million each. Most of it is going towards job training programs and studies/plans, but a few funded items stick out:

-$2.8 million for Cornell to expand its vet school classes by 30 students each (120 total). The goal is to “Expand Rural Veterinarians”.

– $1.9 million for Finger Lakes ReUse to “construct two additional buildings”. I suspect one of those is the renovation of 214 Elmira Road for the new HQ (shown above).

– $250,000 for the Chain Works District to help pay for energy efficiency and feasibility studies for the project.


2. Am I happy about the decision with 130 E. Clinton? No. This has little to do with mixed-use or steep hillsides. I firmly believe that it became a popularity contest and a referendum of Fane’s character. My concern is that this risks becoming the norm, and has the potential to be a lawyer’s paradise. I also don’t look fondly on frequent and fervent opposition to development when housing costs are spiraling upward.

Opposite side of the coin, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. Other contentious projects – Stone Quarry, the Marriott, Collegetown Terrace, Cayuga Green, just about every other project built in the past 20 years – squeak by at least in part because the developers don’t come across as combative, conniving assholes. Plus, Fane himself is quite wealthy, which doesn’t exactly help an argument for tax breaks.

Well, I’ll move this one into the “mothballed/dead” column. With this and the Maguire proposal hitting a dead end, this has not been a good couple weeks.


3. On a different note, the Carey Building tax abatement was approved unanimously. At least some developers know how to play nice. Look for the additional REV incubator space and 20 apartment units to start construction shortly and open for renters in August 2015.

4. Down in big box land, the former Kmart space looks to be filling out with new tenants. Discount clothing store chain TJ Maxx has agreed to take 21,770 sq ft of space, and Five Below (a teen retailer specializing in products $5 or less – it sounds like the product of a one-night stand between Dollar Tree and H&M) has agreed to take 8,208 sq ft of space. The old garden center will be replaced with a 16,200 sq ft addition, a revision of the previously-approved 14,700 sq ft. Benderson Development is redoing the front facade for TJ Maxx, and needs a couple of minor area variances. Readers might recall the Ithaca Kmart closed in 2011, and its sister store, Sears, is closing this winter. If this is any indicator, then there’s hope that the Sears space will be re-occupied soon enough.

Not much else of note for zoning trifles from the city’s Planning Board meeting – someone wants to build a new 2-family home at the corner of Oak Avenue and Oneida Place in outer Collegetown, and a house on Heights Court in Cornell Heights is trying to get increased occupancy for unrelated tenants. For the first time in several months, no new sketch plans are due to be presented at a Planning Board meeting; the holiday and earlier-than-usual monthly meeting are probably a big part of that.

5. Not much to report for Ithaca town’s Planning Board meeting either – a proposal for a new duplex at 636 Coddington Road, and an expansion of the East Hill Plaza branch of Collegetown Bagels into adjacent empty retail space. That winter slowdown is in full swing.



5 responses

13 12 2014

Glad to see the Carey Building project is making progress. LOL at the description of Five Below.

14 12 2014
Cornell PhD

If only the Carey Building approval had stipulated they increase the size of those side windows, which will forever be exposed thanks to the Canopy driveway…

p.s. what is up with Fane claiming that the Clinton slope site was the only one of his covered under the downtown density program? He’s noted plans to develop the abandoned building at Cayuga and Seneca before, why not try for that one? (though doesn’t seem very likely now…)

14 12 2014
B. C.

The Masonic Temple is registered as a historic building, which makes it difficult to demolish. In a place like Ithaca, which has a very active preservation movement, it would be virtually impossible. The disconnect was that a local non-profit (State Theatre Inc.) wanted to turn it into a community space and an annex for the charter school, Fane wants to tear down the building and redevelop the site, and STI made offers but Fane won’t sell. The building has had structural concerns as of late, and some have accused Fane of attempting to demolish it through neglect. Long story short, it’s a case of Fane being Fane.

Here’s the proposal you mentioned, which was tabled:

3 01 2015
News Tidbits 1/3/2015: Ringing In the New Year | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] to not grant tax abatements to Jason Fane’s 130 E. Clinton project. This must be one of those rare times we agree. I do appreciate that they called out the steep slope argument, which is bull crap. They also point […]

18 07 2015
News Tidbits 7/18/15: Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] 3. Recently, Finger Lakes ReUse has been working on plans to open a new “downtown” branch and HQ at the site of the former BOCES Building at 214 Elmira Road on the edge of big-box land. The plans for the gut renovation of the ca. 1950 building (Ithaca’s first big-box supermarket) have been in the works for a while, and grants have been awarded to fund the project. […]

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