Cornell University is developing plans for a major new project on Route 96 that could include senior housing, offices, small-scale commercial, and an institute for its hotel school.
Town planners have been discussing the idea with Cornell for several months, and Thursday afternoon, Ithaca’s town planning committee voted unanimously to recommend the town board consider re-zoning the parcel to accommodate the development.
Cornell owns 35.86 acres on Route 96 between Overlook apartments and the West Hill fire station. Though plans are still preliminary, Cornell is looking to partner with developers Conifer LLC to build 72 senior living apartments and 60 assisted-living units for low-income seniors, Town Supervisor Herb Engman said.
“And this would be Medicaid eligible, which we badly need in this community because we have lots of places where people can age in place … but none that I know of for those who are Medicaid-eligible,” he said.
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In late 2007 and early 2008, developers Paul and Chris Vitale asked the town to rezone a parcel they purchased across from Robert H. Treman State Park to accommodate a Medicaid-eligible assisted living center, but town board members declined. The Vitales will likely operate the proposed West Hill assisted living center, Town Planning Director Jonathan Kanter said.
Cornell Real Estate Director Tom LiVigne said the hotel school has not yet been decided on the exact size and shape of a new institute building, but it would study issues related to seniors in terms of food service and housing, and likely interact with the on-site senior housing.
To maintain “maximum flexibility,” LiVigne said he hoped the town would rezone based on the maximum possible build-out. John Caruso, senior vice president of Passero Associates, presenting Cornell’s plans, suggested a planned development zone should allow 130 to 170 senior and multi-family units, up to 90,500 square feet for the Hotel School institute, 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of office space, and 20,000 to 28,000 square feet of small-scale commercial and retail development.
The parcel is currently zoned medium-density residential, which allows approximately 3.5 homes per acre, Kanter said. That’s roughly 122 units.
The northern entrance to the development would join the traffic-signaled light that intersects Overlook and Cayuga Medical Center, plans show. A southern entrance road would be built just north of the West Hill fire station, directly across from the road proposed to enter the 106-unit Holochuck Homes development. That development is still undergoing environmental review with the town’s planning board, Kanter said.
Cornell’s plans also include a 106-space park-and-ride lot, “which, again, we feel is badly needed for West Hill, so people coming in from Trumansburg, as well as people who might live on this site and nearby people could park their cars there and then take the bus down through town, rather than clogging up the Route 96 corridor from there on down,” Engman said.
The small-scale commercial component is very important to the town, and the town board could make that piece of the development a requirement, Kanter said.
Cornell’s proposal is scheduled to come to the full town board June 7 at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St.