When Things Don’t Work Out

17 01 2013

Frequent readers of this blog are aware that I cover two things – Cornell (its history and physical plant) and new projects and real estate development in the Ithaca area. Now, I’m not going to say I’m beating a dead horse with the former, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it hasn’t been easy coming up with new topics to write about, that aren’t widely available already (ex. the Willard Straight Takeover of 1969), or previous written in this blog.

Fortunately, Ithaca has been undergoing a veritable boom in construction. Just today, I checked the town of Ithaca planning board notes to find yet another multi-unit housing project proposed – “Hawk’s Nest at Springwood”, a 3-story, 50-unit building to be built at the Springwood Townhomes area just east of the intersection of 96B and King Road. The project will be marketed to the 55+ crowd.

hawks nest

This area has seen a cluster of (mostly suburban-style) development in the past few years, with the Holly Creek Townhomes, College Crossings, the Namgyal Monestery, The Country Inn and Suites, The College Circle Apartments (IC) expansion, and a number of private homes. Which, counting that all of the top of my head, gives 184 more beds at IC, and 74+ other housing units. Quite the little burst of activity south of IC.

So, considering the question in a previous entry about historical construction trends, this latest development pushes the private residential units number from 2011-2016 over the 1,000 mark, nothing to sneeze at when the total number of units in the entire metro is just under 42,000. In considering the planned developments north of Ithaca, and single-family homes, the number of units planned in those five years could very well be in the 2000+ range, a proportion highly unusual for upstate New York, and probably only comparable to the Albany metro, where a massive computer chip factory has been underway.

Now, time for the Debbie Downer – I have no expectation all these projects will come to fruition.

In the past, several projects have been downsized, modified, or cancelled. Take Ithaca Gun, a project constantly being re-evaluated due to rapidly increasing costs associated with the site cleanup. The project started off with 160 units, but neighbors complained. It was decreased to 80, then 33, than upped to 45. The final result seems to be a shot in the dark. Because of the uncertainty, I did not include it in the unit count.

Other projects, both current and old, were modified in the planning. The Trebloc Building downtown was originally supposed to be two floors (and I will personally donate a very nice bottle of Finger Lake wine to any developer who proposes to knock that abomination down and replace it with something more fitting). Cayuga Green, covered previously, has been redesigned four times. Collegetown Terrace has undergone at least one major revision and a couple minor ones.

Some projects never see the light of day. The McGraw House, an assisted living facility downtown, considered an expansion in 2009/2010. Then they shelved it. A 400-unit development was planned for West Hill (Carrowmoor), but this also appears to have gone stale.  Cornell’s West Campus was slated to be bedecked in Collegiate Gothic – killed by the Great Depression (among other Cornell proposals and plans that can be found using the search bar). Wal-Mart was once slated for Lansing. The most outlandish serious proposal goes toward a city-sponsored urban renewal plan proposed for Collegetown in 1968. The project would have tore down the heart of Collegetown, and in its place put up an eleven story office building, and 6 to 8 high-rise apartment towers (total 375 units), the tallest being 18 to 21 stories. It also would have included a 600-space parking garage and retail venues.

It’s sort of like “survival of the fittest”. The projects with the most stable funding, and the strongest proposals, tend to win out. Some projects are clearly underway, some go through revisions, some will remain pie-in-the-sky. I do, however, look forward to as many of these projects coming to fruition as possible.


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