News Tidbits 8/8/15: A Shocker on Cayuga Street

8 08 2015

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1. As reported by several news outlets, the Tompkins County Legislature came to the surprise conclusion last Tuesday to give preference to the Travis Hyde proposal for the Old Library site at the corner of West Court and North Cayuga Streets. The final vote was 8-5.

I’ll be honest, I was shocked. I figured the county legislature would just never come to a resolution, or that on the off-chance that it did, it was going to be in favor of the Franklin Properties proposal, which had by far the most vocal support of the three proposals (the third being the unloved Cornerstone proposal for affordable senior housing). If this has been the city’s site to sell, the decision would have gone to Franklin, so I think this ordeal highlights the somewhat differing interests of the city and county. Regardless, I feel either proposal would have been successful for the Old Library site, and I am pleased to see something moving forward.

From here, the project is to move into an SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) assessment coordinated with the city of Ithaca. The project also needs to go forward to the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC) for a certificate of appropriateness. It is quite possible that the design will be changed during those reviews. Once those are approved, a sales agreement will be drawn up late this fall, the county authorizes sale around Christmas, and the actual sale of the property to Travis Hyde would happen in January 2016. If the Travis Hyde project can’t move forward and the sale hasn’t happened, then the county can authorize the Franklin proposal, which would also have to negotiate the same processes to arrive at the selling stage. In sum, a big hurdle has been jumped, but there’s a lot more that needs to happen before any shovels hit the dirt.

2. For all you would-be developers out there, here’s this week’s opportunity – since the folks that own Felicia’s Atomic Lounge have decided to focus on a new restaurant in Trumansburg, their Ithaca site is closing and the property is for sale. On the surface, you get a 1-story, 1,500 SF building at 508 West State Street for about $350,000. Dig deeper and zoning permits a 60′ tall building with no parking required. The city and county have designated the West State corridor as the place where they would like to focus denser development, and the zoning was revised in 2013 to reflect those desires. If/when the property sells, if it merits further attention you’ll see a news update here.

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3. Demolition of the Chapter House’s fire-damaged walls is taking longer than expected because the owner had to apply for a certificate of appropriateness from the ILPC to approve demolition. For those that are interested in reading about how water and fire damage have structurally comprised the structure, the application bundle can be found here. Apart from the usual applications like window and roof treatments, the ILPC is also set to begin discussion of 406 and 408 Stewart Avenue, where a new apartment building is likely to be built to replace the one totally destroyed by the Chapter House (and which I wrote about here on the Voice). For those interested in attending, the meeting is at 5:30 PM in the 2nd floor conference room at Ithaca City Hall.

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4. Looking at the city’s planning board projects memo for the month, August is going to have a lot og big decisions in store. Novarr’s academic building at 209-215 Dryden in Collegetown is up for preliminary approval, as is Tompkins Financial Corporation’s HQ (shown above) and the Dibella’s sub shop in southwest Ithaca. If INHS’s 210 Hancock gets zoning approvals at the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meeting next Tuesday, it will be up for final approval at the August planning board meeting as well. The 12-unit “pocket neighborhood” at 215-221 West Sepncer will complete environmental review and possibly granted permission to face the BZA, and the massive State Street Triangle project will have more public discussion and review, with no decisions expected. A very busy month that will hopefully pane out to a busy construction season in 2016.

5. Looks like there’s a potential site being weighed for a new Collegetown fire station. In minutes from the Board of Fire Commissioners, the location is described as being towards Maple Avenue, on land that would either be donated or bought outright. That would place it up by the Fairview Apartments and Cornell facilities, assuming it’s not further out in Ithaca town (services are shared if I remember right). An unidentified consultant has been chosen to review the costs of selling the land in Inner Collegetown and building a new station vs. renovating the current 47 year-old property.

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5. Random house of the week turns back to 203 Pearl Street in Ithaca’s Bryant Park/Belle Sherman neighborhood. I spy with my little eye, a large garage opening, a rough-in for a door to its left, a couple of rough window spaces, and lots of roof trusses. It’s supposed to be a 1,276 SF house, but one could be forgiven for thinking the owners are just building a nice garage. The lot was separate when the neighborhood was first plated, but decades ago 201 Pearl bought the land and used it for an in-ground pool. The pool was eventually filled up, and the land subdivided once again this past spring.


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6 responses

8 08 2015
Ex-Ithacan

The County approval of Travis for the old Library site took me by surprise as well. I guess it’s a wait and see if it passes through to construction.
Do you think there is a possibility for someone to replace Felicia’s with a taller building? Could be the start of a West End renaissance. Of course I’m sure many would complain that too big of a change for that part of the city. It would probably have to be “sold” to the pubic as the start of more affordable housing.
Hopefully 219 Dryden, TFC, and Dibella will get through the process with no problems.
So the new Number Nines (AKA the No. 9 Firehouse) could be replaced with yet another Student mid-rise? Maybe the city could actually make some money on the deal if things work out right. (lol)

Thanks for the update!

9 08 2015
B. C.

With regards to Felicia’s, in theory, sure it’s possible. In practice, it gets more complicated. It would be a very small footprint no more than 1,300 feet or so once circulation and utilities are taken into account. that would only allow 1 or 2 residential units per floor. At least there’s no parking requirement.

More than likely, the buyer will be more interested in keeping the building as-is for the short-term. And that’s better than a vacant building.

8 08 2015
Gone

Want to make a lot of money? Buy the crappy homes on Linden which are immediately behind the fire station. When the city finally decides to sell the firehouse, you’ll have the property someone needs to consolidate with the College Ave address.

Or smarter yet: the city should purchase the Linden property at their assessment values (the city compell this), consolidate with the firehouse property, and hold a RFP competition like the County did. Certainly the County was willing to give the library away, but instead got paid and got great proposals; The city would certainly see an even better result in Collegetown.

9 08 2015
B. C.

Interesting thought. I checked the records, and 230 and 228 Linden share a property line with the station. They both have the same owner, who was killed in a car accident last fall. Dunno what their current ownership status is.

After all the back and forth with the Old Library, the thought of any government agency doing building RFPs worries me.

15 08 2015
News Tidbits 8/15/15: Big Houses and Little Houses | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] vote was 3-0 in favor; one board member abstained after expressing her distaste for the project. Variances were needed for the height (46.5 feet vs. the 40 feet legally permitted), the parking requirement (84 required, […]

16 04 2016
News Tidbits 4/16/16: The Real Estate Shopping Spree | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] 4. So I’m mostly leaving this to my colleague and editor Jolene Almendarez, because she is much more familiar with the Elmira Savings Bank situation than I am. But it’s worth noting that Steven Wells, the Massachusetts man who sold ESB the properties, was on a buying spree this week. On Tuesday, Wells paid $224,000 for 508 West State Street (the old Felicia’s Atomic Lounge), $884,638 for 622 Cascadilla Street where Zaza’s is located, and $1.5 million for 402-410 Third Street, a commercial plaza home to Finger Lakes Physical Therapy.  Felicia’s was noted here on the blog when it went up for sale last August for $350k. […]

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