News Tidbits 4/16/16: The Real Estate Shopping Spree

16 04 2016

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1. On Monday, the county’s Old Library Committee received an update from Travis Hyde Properties about the redevelopment. Perhaps the biggest development is that Lifelong is no longer moving into the building. Instead, they will sell keep their office at 119 W. Court Street, sell the historic building at 121 W. Court Street, and have free use of DeWitt House’s community room for classes and workshops. Lifelong would also be the administrator of the community room, so rental fees for use of the room by other organizations will be paid to Lifelong instead of Travis Hyde. Lifelong’s treasurer claims this arrangement will save them $50,000 vs. the original proposal.

According to the Ithaca Journal piece by Andrew Casler, law firms have expressed interest in the 121 West Court Street property, although other business and housing isn’t out of the question. 121 is just outside the DeWitt Park Historic District.

The number of units is down from 60 to 55 (though some of those are now 3-bedroom units…the Tines is reporting 57 units total), and parking spaces are down from 30 to 25, all internal to the building since Lifelong is no longer moving in. Frost Travis is quoted as saying he might be looking into expanding the age range of possible tenants (currently proposed as 55+), but that seems liable to garner significant blow-back from neighbors if pursued.

The current plan is to have approval by September, sale of the property by October, and after any final site plan approval tweaks, construction may begin next Spring.

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2. The Ithaca City PEDC had another crack at incentive zoning this past Wednesday. And the consensus is, everybody dislikes it for one reason for another. Some of the development community feels it doesn’t go far enough, while some local activists feels it goes way too far. Sounds like the plan is striking a good compromise if it’s ticking the stakeholders off for not being more like their way of thinking. But, proof would be in practice, and seeing if any developer would actually be interested in pursuing a plan that utilizes the incentive zoning.

On a related note, Svante Myrick deserve a laurel – when asked at the meeting why there’s a housing shortage in Ithaca, he pretty much nailed it – the growing economy, increasing student and retiree populations, and a renewed interest towards urban environments are driving demand higher than in decades past.

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3. For this week’s eye candy, here’s a perspective drawing of the multistory apartment building proposed at 201 College Avenue. One thing that stands out here that doesn’t in the elevations (the latest of which can be found here) is that the corners are stepped down, so the bulk of the building is lessened. The planning board is expected to agree to be the lead agency for environmental review at its April meeting.

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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They all have different owners, and they’re in varying physical conditions. The only thing that unites these three properties is all that are in areas the city as ripe for redevelopment for urban mixed-use in the Comprehensive Plan. Felicia’s was upzoned in June 2013 to CBD-60, permitting a 60-foot tall building, no parking required. 622 Cascadilla is WEDZ-1a, allowing for five floors and no off-street parking requirement. Lastly, 402-410 Third Street is B-4, 40′ max and 50% lot coverage, but allows virtually any kind of business outside of adult entertainment. Those are some of the city’s more accommodating zoning types, so we’ll see what happens moving forward. At the very least, the public relations game will be starting from behind the proverbial eight ball.

5. Out in Dryden, the William George Agency is seeking county legislature approval to issue $2.7 million in bonds to finance construction of a new 24-bed residence hall. The facility will affect about 1 acre, be about 15,000 square feet, and start construction this Spring, taking about one year to build.

As the county deems appropriate, they can approve the issuance of tax-exempt municipal bonds to finance construction projects. First the planning committee signs off on it, and then the general legislature takes it up for a vote. The non-profit residential treatment center secured a $2 million construction loan this past January to fund roof repairs and renovations to cafeteria area. The agency, established in the 1890s, employs over 340, making it one of the larger private employers in Tompkins County.


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2 responses

16 04 2016
Cornell PhD

The Old Library building isn’t completely terrible-looking at this point but it’s definitely starting to evince the appearance of design by committee. By contrast, the stepped down corners of the College Ave. proposal are quite handsome and have improved the design.

Why would someone build a “residence hall” in Dryden? For TC3 students or something?

17 04 2016
B. C.

The William George Agency is a treatment facility for troubled youth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Junior_Republic

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