News Tidbits 4/4/15: And They Called It “PlanIthaca”

4 04 2015


1. According to Ithaca Builds and those on a VIP list-serve, the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek have released tentative rental prices. $1,220/month for a studio to $2,655/month for a top-notch 2 bedroom. Using the affordability rule (30% of monthly income), one gets $48,800-$106,200 year – given the median income in Tompkins County of just over $53,000/yr, these prices could be described as upper-middle tier. I can already hear the grumbling from commenters on the Ithaca Voice if a construction update gets posted.

The 45 units are set to be completed this summer, but those looking to take a sneak peek can sign up for an April 18th tour of the building, courtesy of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.


2. Here’s an updated aerial site rendering of INHS’s 210 Hancock redevelopment. The changes to the affordable housing proposal are largely in site landscaping and layout, the biggest changes being the closure Lake Avenue and moving the playground (which is not rendered in the aerial). Traffic studies, stormwater management plans, and parking studies can be found here (it turns out that compared to the old supermarket, there will be slightly more AM traffic, and a lot less PM traffic), revised site layout here, and about 18 other documents in the April site plan review planning board directory on the city’s website. 210 Hancock will be undergoing review by the city Planning and Development Board at their April meeting.




3. Turning to another INHS project, the Greenways development is going for final approval with the town of Ithaca’s Planning Board next Tuesday. The full suite of documents can be found here. The designs above, for buildings A, B, C, D, and E in Phase I, are very nearly final, though Building C looks like it was accidentally uploaded in grey-scale. B-E will have three units each, 2 2-bedroom (1,100 sq ft) and 1 3-bedroom (1,300 sq ft). Building A will have 2 2-bedroom and 2 3-bedroom units. In sum, Phase I has 16 units and 38 bedrooms. Assuming the other units are the same configuration, the final product will have 46 units and 110 bedrooms. Build-out could take 6-8 years according to the docs, and Building K in Phase II interferes with 0.09 acres of wetland, which the Army Corps of engineers requires to be filled in before development (wetlands under 0.1 acres and not contiguous with any other wetland can be filled in without need of replacement).

The designs are by local architect Claudia Brenner. The floorplans are designed with nearly identical layouts to save money, but the varied use of exterior architectural details and colors does a nice job of giving each building a unique appearance.

Readers might recall that these for-sale owner-occupied units are being developed for the affordable housing segment (individuals/families with incomes of $38k-$57k), and that Cornell is giving INHS the property for below market price on the condition that Cornell employees that fall into the income restraints have first dibs on the units as they hit the market. The property also makes use of “woonerfs“, so-called living streets that are shared by bikers, pedestrians and vehicles, and typically have a speed limit of no more than 10-12 MPH.


4. The city of Ithaca’s draft Comprehensive Plan is now online. The 66-page draft, called “PlanIthaca”, can be looked at here, and the proposed land use map here. Over the past year, the Comprehensive Plan Committee has been busy fleshing out the original 16-page draft document to the full-fledged PlanIthaca document above. The city will be hosting a series of open houses throughout the city during April for interested parties to look through the plan and comment, with the first open house on Monday April 13th from 3:30-5 PM at St. Luke’s in Collegetown. Comments can also be submitted by email to city planner Megan Wilson at

I’ll probably expand on the plan in a future post, but readers of the blog won’t be surprised by anything it says. The map appears to be lacking the neighborhood mixed-use zoning, which from reading the plan appears to be an accident. Otherwise it’s the exact same map from last spring’s write-up.  There’s a couple of interesting concepts that will be explored as things move forward beyond the plan – ideas such as city-wide form-based zoning and a transfer of development rights between properties would make for a large departure from current policies.


5. If you’re looking for a little more light weekend reading, feel free to check out the double feature article on the Tompkins Financial HQ plans running the weekend on the Ithaca Voice. Summing up a few salient details here, the total project will cost $26.5 million, add 77 new jobs downtown over the next decade, and run from about June 2015 to January or February 2017. The new headquarters will be about 110,000 square feet in size, 7 stories and 100 feet tall, the maximum allowed by zoning. The first floor will have a 6,600 square foot (66 feet x 100 feet) bank branch, with parking for 20-25 cars behind the first floor and under the overhanging upper floors. A basement floor will also add 6,600 sq ft of space, and floors 2-7 will have 16,300 square feet each. Across the street at 119 East Seneca Street, a new drive-thru will be built underneath the existing building, consisting of revised drive-thru lanes, surface parking, an ATM and a 985 square foot teller building.



14 responses

4 04 2015

I look forward to your updates regarding the Comprehensive Plan for the city. There’s going to be quite a bit riding on whether development gets easier or harder riding on some decisions made for zoning and such.
I just saw an article in the Ithaca Times about the Old Library project. Says that DPI has dropped out of the competition. Color me disappointed.

4 04 2015

Sorry about the confusing first paragraph above. The phone rang and I lost my place and train of thought. Of course being an old fart doesn’t help matters.

5 04 2015
B. C.

Yeah, I noticed. The Franklin/O’Shae proposal also dropped 10 units according to the county press release, which isn’t going to help that project either. This whole thing has been handled poorly by the county.

5 04 2015
B. C.

The reply was to the first paragraph, by the way! You’re better informed than the vast majority Ex.

I saw your comment on the Voice about 121 East Seneca. I’ve heard that TFC plans on holding onto its 119-121 properties for now, since they own those buildings. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

7 04 2015
Cornell PhD

DPI dropped out!? It was the only attractive proposal. God help Ithaca; what a waste of potential.

5 04 2015

I think the county will end up with a project which will not enhance that block of buildings along Cayuga. I just hope it isn’t a cheap vinyl sided McBuilding sometimes designed as a storage unit for the elderly.
I appreciate the info about the TFC project. I think with some TLC the Seneca building could be a great reuse as residential. Just not sure the finances would work out (maybe some micro apartments like the Carey building has proposed).

5 04 2015
B. C.

Well, when the RFPs are published online, I’ll run the renders here. I’m pretty disappointed with the county at this point, and my hopes are not high for the rest of the process.

6 04 2015

It’s a shame those Lofts@Six Mile Creek apartments will be so expensive. I was hoping that more downtown apartments would help ease the housing crunch, but nobody I know could afford to live there. I wonder who will actually rent them – if you have that much money, why not buy a house in Belle Sherman?

7 04 2015
Cornell PhD

Maybe because property taxes (do they exist here? Are they bad? I’m a renter, but I hear bad things about them in other NY counties) and maintenance still make homeownership unattractive vis-a-vis even a relatively expensive apartment. Not everyone wants to mow a lawn and play with gutters every weekend just because they can afford it (I personally don’t know why anyone wastes their life on these things!) Personally, the idea of floor-to-ceiling windows facing the creek around the corner from downtown shopping sounds nice. Seneca Place sold out quickly with not dissimilar prices and I don’t think it’s as attractive. Too bad we grad students fall just below the ability to afford a $1200 studio without a stretch, but people with slightly higher salaries (e.g. most office jobs) could.

7 04 2015
B. C.

At $3800 in taxes per 100,000 of assessed value, property taxes are quite high here due to a number of factors (a large amount of tax-exempt land, New York State’s overextended bureaucracy, “unfunded mandates”, etc.), but the rate of new growth has been able to keep them a little more restrained than some of Ithaca’s upstate peers (increase in gross property value offsets the need to increase taxes). For renting in a high-tax area, the logic is that landlords just pass the cost onto their tenants indirectly through higher rents.

I haven’t heard of Seneca Way or Gateway Commons struggling to fill their high-end units, in fact they’ve both done pretty well. I don’t think the Lofts will have any problem filling units.

Ha ha, $1200/month would have been a pipe dream when I was in grad school 😉 . My stipend in the early part of this decade was $22k at a large state school in an area with an average cost of living. I think the current kids make maybe $1k or $1500 more than that. It was enough to live on, but we shared apartments and paid about $400/month typically.

Tax rate source:

7 04 2015
Cornell PhD

“…a drive-thru will be built…”

The first thing any downtown aspiring to walkability and urban density should ban is drive-through retail of any kind. And yet Ithaca not only has multiple drive-through banks; it’s reestablishing those that seemed to be in the process of disappearance. Bah.

7 04 2015
B. C.

Fwiw, the new one is going on an existing surface lot (or whatever you want to call the lot below 119 E. Seneca). Baby steps. There’s been a a fair amount of pushback from some community members who don’t want more density.

8 04 2015
Cornell PhD

Pushback on the drive-thru or the new building?

Do they know you can have low density without drive-thrus?

(Unrelated note: I wonder why “community members” who are invariably a small and vocal group always get to claim the mantle of the “community” in writing on these subjects. Considering they’re an unrepresentative group active over a given issue, they should be called “activists”.)

9 04 2015
B. C.

The pushback was against the new building. Comments like there’s not enough parking, it’ll drive up land values on nearby homeowners, or that people just don’t want to go to downtown (a bullsh*t complaint if there ever was one). I haven’t heard any opinions about the new drive-thru.

The funny part about the parking one is, only about 20 jobs are moving into the city from their Lansing site. The rest are moving from other downtown locations. The people they’re so worried about creating traffic are already in downtown Ithaca.

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