News Tidbits 3/6/13: Another Project, Another Closed Door

6 03 2013

A superstitious part of me can’t help but feel like I jinxed something when I wrote about cancelled projects in the Ithaca metro not long back. The latest victim is particularly unfortunate – Collegetown Crossing, the six-story mixed-use project proposed for the 300 block of College Avenue, in an area sorely in need of redevelopment.

In this case, the fault was not the developer’s. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) thought the project was asking for too much with its parking variance (there were lot size variances as well, but those are not the issue here). As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not surprised, as the variance was for 95% less parking than required, which is a steep order to ask for, even with the community benefits and the proposed mitigation. Granted, I tend to be a bit cynical when I think about details such as the head of the zoning board being a stakeholder in a competing developer, but the primary drivers of the rejected variance were permanent residents who felt that students would try and smuggle their cars and park on their streets several blocks away (and this I can’t argue with – I personally feel that there are many Cornell students that walk around with a sense of entitlement, and would think that they’re being “clever” and “beating the system” by bringing their cars and trying to be discreet about it). The phrase “dead in the water” is fairly appropriate, because the project cannot move forward unless the parking is added (unlikely) or the city amends its parking requirements (slightly more likely, but this would take a support of the Common Council, and a stretch of time to be approved and implemented).

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On a slightly more optimistic note, the IJ notes that $250 million in private development is underway in 71 large projects and a number of smaller works through FY 2015. Notably, following the breakdown, the vast majority of these are apartment and hotel projects, with another chunk under the vague title of “mixed-use” – proof that tourism and education are big drivers locally. Of these, 30 are in Ithaca City and 18 are in the town; I can guarantee at least half are discussed on this blog, most with renderings. Lansing reports another 18 projects, most of which could be broken down into three categories: apartments and retail near 13, housing developments (of which I’m aware of about 5 off the top of my head), and projects tied into Lansing Town Center. The article never defines what constitutes a major project, and this could be responsible for some of the discrepancy in the number of projects.

Off the cuff, I don’t write about single-family housing developments for three reasons – suburbia tends to look fairly homogenous, I’m not a fan of sprawl, and they take years to build out anyway. The article notes 516 residential lots in some phase of execution.  Give me a Kentlands-style proposal and I’ll get the keyboard a-tapping.

Of further interest, 27 are purely apartment projects, with about 2,100 units. This doubles the number I estimated a couple months back. Some of this is because I only counted Ithaca proper, which was Ithaca city and town, Cayuga Heights, and Lansing village. Adding the 72 units in Dryden’s Poet’s Landing, the 75 units proposed with the Boiceville Cottage expansion in Caroline, and the few hundred units in Lansing town’s Town Center definitely bring the two figures two closer. The project in Danby I think is a factory consolidation.

Of the 4 hotels and 450 rooms – offhand, there’s the 106-room Fairfield Inn, the Holiday Inn addition (13 new rooms in gross or 195 newly built rooms, depending on your perspective), the Hotel Ithaca and its 160 rooms, and maybe the Hampton Inn proposal for 92 rooms, but the combined room total is off, so I dunno what’s being counted.

It’s a boom by most standards, and certainly welcome from the perspective of this blog. I just hope to avoid seeing more projects end up “dead in the water”.

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2 responses

7 03 2013
ex-ithacan

BC, just wondering if you saw Jame Marcham’s letter in the OP-Ed section of the IJ ref the second part of your comments?

8 03 2013
B. C.

I have read her op-ed. Some of her points are valid, parking will become tighter, and there is the question of whether the current amounts of spaces are adequate for both locals and visitors. But I think she’s a little carried away with saying people aren’t going to walk the block from the Cayuga Street Parking Garage. If she wants to use that argument, then the Commons should never have been built, as it increases congestion and took away parking spaces and an important section of the transportation grid. You can’t build underground garages in downtown because the water table is too high. But most people don’t like massive garages either. So we have many reasons for encouraging carshares, efficient mass transit, and other plans that would alleviate some traffic concerns.

TL;DR: If she wants to live in a sea of parking lots, she can move to the Sunbelt.

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