News Tidbits 12/5/15: Stamp of Approval

5 12 2015



1. Over in downtown, The Journal’s Nick Reynolds attended a rather quiet CIITAP meeting for the revised Hotel Ithaca project. There were only five attendees outside of those who had to be there, and it doesn’t seem like any big issues arose during the hearing. A quibble was raised about the lack of parking on site, but city officials it’s across the street from the Cayuga Street parking garage, and downtown workers don’t usually overlap with the hours that hotel guests will be using the garage (a 9-5 crowd vs. a 5-9 crowd).

To be fair, this wasn’t expected to be a big news-maker, since a previous iteration of the project received CIITAP approvals in 2013 (since it wasn’t built, the abatement was never applied). It’s also not a big impact on the city – the 5-story, 90-room addition mostly replaces an existing two-story wing of hotel rooms currently on that part of the site. In fact, it’s a decrease in the total number of rooms at the Hotel Ithaca, from 180 to 170. An earlier write-up on the project can be found on the Voice here, the CIITAP application here.

Developer Hart Hotels of Buffalo hopes the $11.5 million project will receive the new abatement at the county IDA’s December meeting, after which construction is expected to run either from January 2016 to May 2017 (presumably in time for the graduation crowds), or March 2016 to March 2017 per Josh Brokaw at the Ithaca Times.


2. Speaking of Josh Brokaw, he provides a nice rundown of last Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting in the city of Ithaca. Salient details are as follows:

– DeWitt House (the Travis Hyde proposal for the Old Library site) still looks the same, but now has a little more covered parking on site, 55 spaces. The 60 units are still shooting for middle-market, 55+ individuals. Much of the library foundation will be reused.
– There’s a few more details about the Chapter House and Simeon’s both of which have shown up on the Voice in recent weeks. Simeon’s is shooting for an April opening, with the apartments sometime later.
– 215-221 West Spencer Street was approved. Expect a Q1-Q3 2016 construction timeframe.
– The debate about the Printing Press Lounge continues. With all due sympathy towards the one speaker’s early bedtime, there might be a double-standard here, as she’s had spirited meetings with the Town of Ithaca’s ZBA about a new house and other investments at her lakefront property, angering her future neighbors in the process.

3. The town of Ithaca will have an interesting development discussion next week. The South Hill Business Campus (SHBC) at 950 Danby Road is looking to “broaden and clarify” the legal uses in its Planned Development PDZ, which was established in 2005. the PDZ establishes strict guidelines on site uses, but gives the SHBC greater autonomy from the zoning code, useful when you have a variety of commercial and industrial tenants. Along with adding the capacity for greenhouses and outdoor event gatherings, there are some minor occupational clarifications, like adding wellness centers to the definition of medical facilities. But most importantly, the owners want to legalize residential uses in the PDZ.

To provide a quick background on SHBC, the complex as a manufacturing center for National Cash Register in 1957, with the addition of a new wing for offices in 1975. At one point, NCR employed over 1,000 people at the site. However, in 1991, NCR was acquired by AT&T, who sold the Ithaca facility to French company Axiohm three years later.  Workforce reductions and outsourcing had emptied most of the building, and Axiohm accepted an offer to sell the facility to a group of local investors headed by businessman Andy Sciarabba. The complex was renovated in the 2000s into a multi-tenant business center – SHBC. Axiohm, now Cognitive TPG, continues to occupy space as a tenant.

Before the late 2000s recession, SHBC, with 90% occupancy, presented sketch plans to the town to construct several new commercial and industrial buildings and create a business park, but those plans were discontinued as tenants closed or moved out during those hard economic times. There has been some “rebound”, but not enough to justify new work spaces as of yet. They would still be an option even if residential options are approved.

The current building isn’t permitted for residential – 40 years of manufacturing left the building environmentally compromised. It’s been re-mediated enough for business use, but not residential use. Any residential on the 56.6 acre site would have to be in new buildings.

There are certainly some favorable factors to an Emerson/Chain Works-type of redevelopment to complement SHBC. It’s close to major employers downtown, across the street from Ithaca College, there’s room for parking and amenities, and the town has had an eye towards encouraging development along that section of 96B and South Hill, by engaging with Form Ithaca to come up with ideas, and through the Route 96B pedestrian corridor study.

There’s nothing firm on the table, but the revisions in the PDZ language would certainly open the door wide for future development. We’ll see what the town board thinks of the idea next Tuesday.

4. Out in the town of Lansing, it looks like the town of Lansing will soon be looking at plans for a 9,100 SF retail store at the intersection of East Shore Drive and Cayuga Vista Drive. Although details haven’t been given (only that a plan was submitted in November, according to the 11/23 minutes), we might be able to guess what’s on it’s way. Both corner lots of the T-inersection are currently undeveloped fields – the southeastern parcel is owned by Freeville-based Fingerlakes Tire & Auto (purchased 1994), the northeastern parcel is owned by a local dentist and her husband and was purchased in 2010. Retail being retail, it seems most likely to be a tire or auto supply store.



5. House of the week. A duplex being built at 214 Pennsylvania Avenue, just a couple blocks from Ithaca’ front entrance. These photos are a few weeks old now, so there might be more than a concrete foundation wall with rough window openings by this time. No need to guess on how it will look, though – the Iacovelli family is building the duplex, and they’ve reused the same basic design for at least 15 years, seen in the second image of a house further up the street. Each unit will have 2 bedrooms and about 1100 SF. The building permit was issued in late September.



One response

12 12 2015
News Tidbits 12/12/15: Money Money Money Money | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] on the corner of East Shore and Cayuga Vista Drives in Lansing that was mentioned last week (here, Item 4)? It’s going to be a Dollar General. Not sure if that’s better than the auto/tire store […]

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