“Dryden South” Proposed for Collegetown

28 05 2014

dryden_south_2

Being that is a completely new project, I decided that rather than include this as an update in the previous planning board entry, I’d give it’s own blog post.

The site in question is 205/207 Dryden – what my Cornell contemporaries know as the old Kraftee’s building, and what the newest graduates know as the new Kraftee’s building. Kraftee’s is one of the local private college department stores, and opened its second location in Ithaca in December 2002 (the first store opened in Herkimer in 1989, moved to Oswego in 1990, and is still open today). Owner Pat Kraft bought 205 Dryden in 2004, and in January 2008, moved its store to the old convenience store next door (325 College Avenue, now the home of PopShop). In fall 2011, Kraftee’s moved back into the Dryden Avenue space after 325 College was sold to John Novarr, and he decided to not renew Kraft’s lease.

This I find very interesting. There are 5 parcels on the south side of the 200 block of Dryden Road in Collegetown; 4 are owned by Novarr’s company. Kraftee’s was the fifth. According to the rumor mill, Novarr’s Dry-Lin LLC may have made an offer to buy the property from Kraft; had they succeeded, they would have had the opportunity to consolidate their parcels and control an entire block in the heart of Collegetown, and build a potentially massive project. But, for whatever reason, no deal was made.

Turning back to the building proposed, what we have is a mixed-use structure designed by local firm Sharma Architects, 6 stories tall. “Dryden South”, as the building is called, would have about 2400 sq ft of retail space on the first floor, and the upper five floors would have 10 units of student apartments with a total of 40 bedrooms. The sketch plan only consists of the page below, but the pdf is here.

dryden_south

To be honest, the design is par for the course for Jagat Sharma et al., lots of brick with a little visual interest on the street-facing side. Not unlike any of the dozens of midrises they’ve thrown up in the NYC boroughs over the past few years. Personally, I despise the prison-slit windows proposed for the west facade, but it’s also an acknowledgement that the developer fully expects Novarr to propose something of his own for that corner in due course. We’ll see how this evolves as it moves forward to the planning board.

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7 responses

28 05 2014
Cornell PhD

Bravo; the more decaying wooden houses in Ithaca replaced by “NYC-style midrises,” the better. And good that the block will feature some variation in building size and style thanks to this project breaking up its ownership.

Kraftee’s is a “department store,” though? My impression was that they’re a little place selling Cornell gear and the occasional school supply. It’d be nice if it were also being replaced…by a type of business Collegetown actually needs more of (how about a pharmacy?)

28 05 2014
B. C.

I used “department store” as a sort of technicality. they have a general retail department and a books department, per their website.

It’s funny you mention a pharmacy in Collegetown. There used to be one, in the building where Collegetown Crossing is now proposed. It closed in 2006 because the corporate felt there wasn’t enough business.

http://cornellsun.com/blog/2006/10/18/collegetowns-kinney-drugs-closes-residents-concerned/

28 05 2014
Cornell PhD

I guess it makes sense that Gannett would prove tough competition, although Gannett’s prices are really high. I mean, you could apply the same logic to expensive meal plans and eateries on the Cornell campus vs. eating out and cooking in Collegetown, too, couldn’t you?And yet restaurants seem to do okay there. Still kind of boggles the mind that this area can’t support a basic CVS like every rinkydink town center in Massachusetts can.

And seems the vacancy problem in Collegetown is nothing new. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Cornell needs to realize that its surroundings are a quality of life issue that are affecting faculty and student recruitment, buy up local property, and offer it at reasonable rents to an attractive mix of retailers (while they’re at it they can subsidize residential rents, too, and help put downward pressure on the ridiculous Collegetown housing market). Other universities don’t let their neighborhoods live and die by the cycle of classes being in session; Columbia and UChicago have bought up their surroundings and micromanaged their tenants with exceptional success.

29 05 2014
B. C.

Eh, I dunno if restaurants are the best comparison. Drugs offered between stores don’t tend to vary much, but with food options, there’s just so much more to try beyond the RPCC buffet line. Also, visitors and tourists aren’t heading over to Kinney’s to refill their prescriptions. But I do understand your point, and I have an anecdote that supports it; when the Cayuga Place Apartments opened up downtown, it was a really big deal that Trumansburg-based Palmer Pharmacy opened a branch there; downtown wasn’t seen as a viable market, the CVS on the Commons closed in 2002. The Downtown Ithaca alliance had been looking for a replacement for years, and it took a local company to make the leap of faith. The business was bought by a relative of the owners and renamed, but they’ve been successful nevertheless.

http://tinytowntimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1311:the-little-pharmacy-that-could-can-and-is-making-downtown-ithaca-a-better-place-to-be&catid=60:general-assignment&Itemid=80

As for the second point, I think we’ve had this discussion previously – Cornell has a long-standing reputation of being hands-off. It wasn’t until the 1980s that they even thought to invest and renovate buildings in Collegetown. Plus, many locals are wary of Cornell throwing its weight around – I guarantee you there would be one hell of an uproar if Cornell tried to buy/build student housing in Collegetown (building dorms on campus would at least be lukewarmly received by landlords; I wish the school would give it greater consideration).

29 05 2014
Ex-Ithacan

I am leery of Cornell getting into the landlord business. If the university started buying up more property in C-town, that would mean a reduction in the tax rolls for the city. Since those properties are among the most valuable in the city, the loss in tax revenue without an increase in Cornell’s annual contribution would not help the town vs gown issue.
On a side not, I recall that many years ago there was a drug store on Eddy St. (where the Miyake Sushi Bar is now located). It was full service including a soda counter. I can’t remember the name, but I do remember the vanilla cokes I use to suck down as a kid.

29 05 2014
Cornell PhD

Good point about the contributions controversy. I guess ownership in NYC or Chicago was a drop in the lost tax dollars bracket for those cities, but in Ithaca it might be a problem. I wonder if Cornell could own in some kind of different capacity. Maybe start some kind of technically for-profit real estate subsidiary to take care of this? I can imagine the city would be happy to put a rubber stamp on something that would result in increased urban investment by Cornell without a reduction in tax revenue.

18 06 2014
Six Years Later | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] is about to start). Many projects were announced, including hotels at 339 Elmira and 371 Elmira, a new apartment building for Collegetown, 323 Taughannock, the Chain Works District, and everyone and their grandmother wants to redevelop […]

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