Progress in Collegetown?

9 03 2014


Given the chance to look back at high-value projects over the past 30 years, one would find that, until the past several years, the list would be dominated by projects in Collegetown. Reasons abound- quoting developers, students “are looking for quality“, while increasing land values (comparable to downtown Los Angeles) have persuaded property owners to upgrade their stock and maximize their returns. The city has in general promoted Collegetown redevelopment since its slummier days, with relaxed policies in the 1980s and a couple of brief moratoriums allowing for reassessment (ex. the moratorium of 1999/2000, when the newly-built 312 College Avenue rubbed some locals the wrong way).

As of late, though, development in the Collegetown area has tapered down. There have been a couple projects over the past several years: 309 Eddy was completed in 2012, and 320 Dryden in 2008. If you want to stretch it, you can add 107 Cook, but that has less bedrooms than the building that burnt down. The big glaring omission here is Collegetown Terrace, but that is being built just outside of what is traditionally considered Collegetown.

A big factor in all of this has been the uncertainty in Collegetown’s zoning. Since about 2008, Collegetown’s zoning has been in flux. The city and Cornell paid about $200k for an urban planning company (Goody Clancy) to design a plan, which came out in 2009. The  project freaked out some residents and local politicians, who saw it as too dense and too much, period. Then the planning board went and took it in the opposite direction, proposing zoning that would force smaller buildings and reduced density. I made a b*tchy little rant when that happened. Since the old images can’t be blown up (I had an issue with that for a while back in 2009 or so), the numbers for the Goody Clancy plan can be seen better here on page 161. I’ve been unable to find another copy of the first revision, not that it specially matters since the plan was accepted, repealed in 2011 after a potential lawsuit from landowners, and has been revised seemingly a dozen times since, debating everything from the necessity of porches in certain zones, to the tremendous fight over maximum heights on the intersection of College and Dryden (90′ in the GC plan, 60′ for first revision, now 80′), to parking and encouraging townhouses. After much back and forth, something is now finally in place.

The final version is the Collegetown Area Form Districts guideline, the implemented form of the plan. The key thing with the is plan is the form-based zoning; traditional zoning focuses on regulating use and overarching parameters (lot size, density), form-based zoning scrutinizes design. Form-based zoning has been popular in new urbanism for encouraging walkable, mixed-use communities, an early example being Florida’s Seaside community.


The plan has six zone types, each with its own tweak on the design guidelines. CR-1 to CR-4 are increasingly denser forms of “Collegetown Residential”, MU-1 and MU-2 are mixed use, with active street engagement through ground floor commercial or public uses.


Compared to the Goody Clancy plan, the Dryden/College core isn’t as dense, but the floor count and maximum heights are even higher than suggested in some spots, for instance College at Bool Streets. But the primary focus of the plan is on the design of buildings. CR-1 and CR-2 will be large house forms with pitched roofs, CR-3 for 2-3 unit large homes/duplexes. CR-4 accommodates large houses, townhomes, and small-to-medium size apartment buildings. MU-1 welcomes medium-sized mixed use structures, while MU-2 is for the largest mixed-use buildings, up to 6 floors and 80 feet in height (think 403 College for example). Worth noting, most of Collegetown Crossing falls into MU-2, but the back end edges into a CR-4 Linden Avenue property also owned by developer Josh Lower. Since CR-4 is residential only, the difference would force him to make a redesign to reduce the building’s footprint, but at least parking will no longer be a concern. This December 2013 article says that required off-street parking was removed from CR-4 and the MUs, but I still see it listed in the guidelines as “required off-street parking” under accessory uses. Hopefully it’s just my paranoia; the IJ also said the parking reqs were also waived for the MUs when the plan was adopted.

The Sun, the IJ and other articles note the “strong support” for the plan. I can only hope, after six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless meetings, that the city will have something to show for its efforts. Housing is only getting tighter in Collegetown, and developers are simply looking outside the core for their projects, so to have some guideline in place will hopefully spur some investment into Collegetown’s poorly-maintained and underutilized properties.

Making Room(s) at Collegetown Terrace

21 02 2014

7-26-2013 018

Here’s an interesting concept coming out of Collegetown Terrace: A proposal to exchange some of the interior parking for more housing. This info comes courtesy of the city of Ithaca, which will have to grant a zoning variance in order to let such a change proceed.

The last phase of Collegetown Terrace (phase III)  is slated to begin later this year, with construction complete by summer 2015. Phase III is supposed to focus on the construction on the last building, #7 (formally known as 120 Valentine Place), a long, curving building very similar to  the currently underway #5. The whole complex as-is provides 1177 bedrooms and 699 parking spaces (5 more than legally required). However, the developer (Novarr-Mackesey) has noted that only about 50% of tenants utilize parking, which means about 100 will go unused (guest parking tends to only make up a very small % of lot use). They have put forth a rather unusual proposal where the second floor of parking for building 7 would instead be 80 units of dorm-style housing: all tenants get their own bed and bath, but share kitchens and community spaces. After reconfiguring some two-bedrooms to three-bedrooms, the net gain of units is 69 (from 178 to 247 in Bldg. 7).  The current buildings, #5 (112 Valentine, 167 units) and #6 (113 Valentine, 71 units) would be unchanged. Zoning calls for 703 parking spaces in the new setup, the develop wants to put in only 652, which they claim it would still result in 50 underused spaces. So here we are. I know even the regulated 9 additional spaces for 80 more units seems a little unbalanced, but the unit reconfiguration and the small square footage of those “dorms” allow it to be so. Changes to the exterior are expected to be minimal.

At a glance, this is a nifty idea – the dorm units are expected to rent for about 50-67% the cost of a typical studio or one-bedroom in the complex (which looks to be around $1000, so $500-$670 for these). Since Collegetown Terrace mostly appeals to wealthier echelons, this sort-of mixed-income aspect is appealing, and it gives a different group of landlords increased competition for tenants; also, it makes for a denser parcel, and does a favor to those seeking to buoy business in Collegetown, and avoid more home-to-rental conversions. However, I doubt the neighbors will be amused (some are not fans of having so many college students gathered in one complex), and the parking discussion (which so far is based only off “experience”) will be reviewed with a figurative magnifying glass. I feel like this project could be a major test-bed of the city’s evolving views on parking requirements.

Collegetown Terrace Update 7/2013

27 07 2013

Taking a page out of Ithaca Builds’ format – breaking these up to reduce wordpress photo drag. I had exactly 90 minutes to try and hit as much of Ithaca as possible before getting back on the road; I didn’t see everything I wanted, but I hit a lot, and I’ll be sharing those photos over the next few days.

Phase 2 for Collegetown Terrace is nearing completion (units will have their first tenants next month), and phase 3 is underway with a targeted completion date of August 2014. Phase 2 consists of buildings 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4. Phase 3 will have buildings 5, 6 and 7, and these buildings will be similar in appearance to phase 2.

7-26-2013 013

7-26-2013 014

The large glassy entry pavilion (where the fitness center will be, if I remember right) is largely complete, Any work left at this stage would likely be cosmetic details such as finishes.

7-26-2013 025 7-26-2013 024

Since I’m not the biggest fan of modern architecture, I was a little nervous about the facade treatment when it was first proposed. The metal tiles don’t look half bad, as the landscaping grows in they’ll blend into the environment more nicely.

7-26-2013 016 7-26-2013 015

The George C. Williams house has been sympathetically renovated, although the addition to the back is rather incongruous.

7-26-2013 018 7-26-2013 019 7-26-2013 020

Building 3.4 is quite massive, although the north facade attempts to make the structure seem a little less mammoth. The south side, deeper into the gorge, makes less of an effort. Building 5 can be under construction in the above image.

7-26-2013 021

This guy totally struggled to turn into the street. On that note, I struggled just trying to cross the street. I will be quite relieved when the reworked intersection of State and Mitchell is in place.

7-26-2013 023 7-26-2013 030

The buildings from Phase 1 are growing out their landscaping and appear to be faring all this construction rather well.

7-26-2013 026 7-26-2013 029

Not quite sure what the red-and-white checkered flag means, it could be a warning symbol or a company symbol, like the topping pine tree seen with some construction projects.




Collegetown Construction Photos, Spring 2013

9 04 2013

4-8-2013 198 4-8-2013 199

The last time I rolled through around Thanksgiving, the Vine Street Cottages projects had two homes complete and a third underway. 4.5 months later, and the third home is complete, but the project has shown no further development. 3 homes of 29 is not a particularly auspicious sign, especially when all of the for sale signs nearby had no “sold” stickers slapped on. They’re nice homes, but it’s not easy justifying paying $300k+ when older homes of similar design are going for 100k less five minutes away.

4-8-2013 173 4-8-2013 171 4-8-2013 170 4-8-2013 168 4-8-2013 166

I still cannot get over how massive the Collegetown Terrace project is. It just dominates the terminating views along the State Street corridor. The work underway at the moment is for Phase II, set to be complete this summer. Phase III will not be as visible, as those buildings will be built closer to the gorge. One thing I did realize in taking photos was that it was extremely difficult to cross East State Street, a sentiment shared by a couple of residents who were cursing loudly while trying to cross the busy road. Thankfully, improvements to the road will be made to make it more pedestrian-friendly, including reworking the traffic lanes/island and adding crosswalks. The entire project will be complete in Summer 2014.

4-8-2013 190

Which by that time, I would not be surprised to see Novarr-Mackesey initiate plans for the former Palms property and its neighbors, all of which are owned by the development company.

4-8-2013 183

107 Cook looks to be complete.

4-8-2013 184

Maybe someday? Hopefully.

4-8-2013 177

604 East Buffalo Street. Not long ago, it was home to the Crossroads Life Center, a Christian Fellowship organization. Crossroads sold the property in December 2012, anticipating a move to a newly-constructed property that appears to be in substantial need of donations in order to actually happen. Meanwhile, WVBR bought the building for its new studio, moving out of its current digs near East Hill Plaza. In the same vein, the station is in the middle of a capital campaign to renovate the structure for their needs, to the tune of $935,000. The naming rights have been bought in full by left-wing gadfly Keith Olbermann’ 79, whose donation was partly in honor of deceased classmate Glenn Corneliess.  Hence, Olbermann-Corneliess Studios. the station expects to move in by the end of fall 2013.

4-8-2013 196

Apparently, Pontiac 1000s still exist in the Northeast. Growing up in a family with multiple mechanics, I knew as a child that owning this car, or more commonly its Chevette sibling, pretty much meant you gave up on life. Bravo to the person who’s kept one going this long, well after repairs would be worth more than the car itself.

Creeping in Collegetown

26 03 2013

12-29-2011 073

I have never understood, nor will ever try to understand, the fascination some have with invading the privacy of young college women in their apartments. A recent Cornell Sun article notes a case where a former Cornell student entered two apartments in the 312 College Ave. apartment building invited. These apartments were occupied by female students, who screamed and/or confronted the guy, causing him to flee. Apart from the obvious threat a guy like this poses, I couldn’t help but think that events like these have been going on for a while now.

My first thought was the “Collegetown Creeper”, a story that I already knew from when I was growing up north of Syracuse, because that’s how much of a media sensation it was. The creeper was tied into at least 18 cases, occurring in 2003 and 2004. Most of the earlier ones were cases of peering through windows into the apartments of young females. Then the creep factor was kicked up a notch in early 2004 when he would break in and watch them sleeping. By the end of his reign of terror, he had graduated to full-blown sexual abuse. At least one victim claimed her clothes were cut off and baby oil was poured onto her. As one might imagine, this created quite a stir, and by the fall of 2004, students were protesting outside Common Council meetings, demanding further action be taken on the issue.

The creeper was eventually arrested in late October 2004. The suspect was identified as Abraham Shorey, who at 23, a married father of six, and sporting Rastafarian-style dreads, seemed as unlikely a sexual criminal as any. Shorey was familiar with the Collegetown area and its crowds, as he worked as a cook over at The Nines. Before his arraignment on charges of burglary and sexual abuse, Shorey posted baiand fled the area. He managed to avoid arrest on two occasions  by producing fake IDs throughout his time as a fugitive. He was arrested a year later in San Diego, where he plead guilty to assault with intent to rape a San Diego County woman in May 2005. DNA evidence collected at the scene of the San Diego incident linked the perpetrator to the events in Ithaca from the previous two years. His sentence in California is seven years and four months, but the charges against him in New York were dropped for a number of reasons (time elapsed, difficulty locating witnesses, etc.)

Unfortunately, much worse has also occurred. Although technically not Collegetown, a 25-year old graduate student was raped and murdered near North Campus in May 1981, her body then dumped into the gorge. Her killer would graduate and go on to seven more murders in downstate NY and CT before being arrested.

Ignoring all the insensitive jokes students make about “forcible touching” here, but female students at Cornell have every reason to be concerned for their safety, in the past, now, and for the foreseeable future.

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).


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”.

Thanksgiving Construction Update, Part I

30 11 2012

It has occurred to me that when I hop between construction sites, I could possibly be construed as the worst driver on the planet, because I look to get as close as possible, parking or drive-by, without a whole lot of attention to anything around me. So it hardly seems appropriate that my first police ticket ever was last night, driving home through a town I’ve never been in before in my life, where the detour sign for the bridge I needed to cross was knocked askew, and I tried to make my way back to the state highway. According to the police officer, I went through a stop sign, and upon driving back to take photos this morning, I still have no idea which intersection he’s referring to on the ticket (it only gives one street). This will be a weird day in traffic court.

Bad luck, or karma. I suppose it’s one of the two.

Anyway, the below photos were taken the day after Thanksgiving, driving back down 81 heading downstate. Since Ithaca’s only a 25 mile detour each way, carpe diem.

11-24-2012 138

Checking out Lansing first (as it’s closest to where I get off from 81 southbound), I didn’t notice much in the way of large-scale construction as expected for the new senior homes next to the BJ’s. Although, a utility building did appear to be under construction, seen here on the left side of the image. Update 1/10/13: Only now do I find out this is a new fire station under construction.

11-24-2012 140

Not too far away, the woody lot behind the Triphammer Mall is slated to be home to a 3/4 story apartment building.

11-24-2012 143

Over at Cornell, the mostly-subterranean addition to the Law School is well underway. This is but the first phase, with a completion likely in late 2013/early 2014.

11-24-2012 145

11-24-2012 144

11-24-2012 154

The steel frame of Gates Hall is mostly complete, wish some interior framing underway. The new computer science building, with 101,000 sq ft, will be completed late next year.

11-24-2012 147

The green roof is being laid for the new classroom attached to Fernow Hall. Renovations on Fernow and Rice continue through 2015.

11-24-2012 148

11-24-2012 151

The new Stocking Hall/food science addition once again wins the award for “hardest tarp to see through”, a thick black burlap secured fastened to the construction fence. This is why photo number two had to be taken by sliding the camera lens underneath the metal mesh. The new building will be completed roughly next summer, with renovations of the older parts of the Stocking Hall complex to continue into 2014.

11-24-2012 152

11-24-2012 153

The new building for the Big Red Band appears to be undergoing foundation work, and working were on site when I visited. Being a small, 4,700 sq ft structure, the completion date just a few months away seems fairly appropriate.

11-24-2012 155

11-24-2012 156

Heading into Collegetown, the Belle Sherman Cottages project has advanced a little further, with a second home complete and a third well under construction (workers were pouring the base for the garage as I walked by). I checked the other lots for “sold” signs, and although some of the land appeared to be disturbed enough for additional foundation work, I did not notice any more sold lots, so this home may be the last built in the near-term.

11-24-2012 159

The new townhomes at 107 Cook Street are undergoing the last of their exterior work, and will probably be complete by the end of the winter. The two townhomes offer 12 bedrooms total, one less than the destroyed apartment home they replaced.

11-24-2012 157

This seems like bad planning.

11-24-2012 161

The concrete bunker of a building still stands solemnly, awaiting news on whether the new Collegetown Crossing building will be on site.

11-24-2012 172

Ithaca Gun. Still empty since construction/remediation stopped in August due to cost overruns, and seemingly as polluted as ever. At this point, you’ll have to tear out a section of the Earth’s crust to get rid of all the pollution.

An Updated Exercise In Mapping, Part II

25 11 2012


1. The Big Red Marching Band – A 4,400 sq ft practice facility for the marching band is well underway, with completion set for mid-winter 2013.

2. Stocking Hall Renovation/Addition – Structural work is roughly complete on the 136,000 sq ft, 4-story addition, with renovation of the neighboring old Stocking Hall underway. The new portion will be mostly complete by next summer, with rehab work in the 1921 building due for completion the following year.

3. The Law School Addition – Phase I is underway, with a completion expected in winter 2013/2014. The project adds 16,500 sq ft (mostly underground) to the Law School complex.

4. Fernow/Rice Halls Renovation/Addition – Renovations, and the small partially underground addition with a green roof, are underway. Fernow will completion renovation next year, and Rice Hall in 2015.

5. Gates Hall - Probably the most obvious project on campus, the new William Gates computer science building has topped out, with interior and exterior framing underway. Completion of the 101,000 sq ft building should occur in late 2013.


1. The New Humanities Building – The 66,500 sq ft addition/boring glass box next to Goldwin Smith will go out for bidding in mid-2013, with construction likely to begin around winter 2013/2014, and a 2015 completion.

2. The CU ERL Project – Approved, but contingent on funding approvals from the feds. I believe this one isn’t expected to start until 2013, with a five-year time frame for completion (i.e. don’t hold your breath for this one’s ground-breaking). The synchrotron will be expanded, as will the Wilson Lab, for a gain of about 185,000 sq ft.


1. Not Cornell, but pertinent – a four story, 36 unit (88 bed) project for the corner of Thurston Ave. and Highland Ave.


1. The proposal to renovate and complete a $15 million addition to Helen Newman Hall on North Campus has stalled out for the short term, probably because lab space and academic space outcompetes leisure/activity space. It’s a university, after all.

2. Ithaca Gun, with about 45 units proposed. Remediation after remediation after remediation, and I think most people still believe the land is toxic. Construction is on hold until the land is considered clean enough for reuse.


1. The Belle Sherman Cottages – 19 homes and 10 townhouse units, built as the market demands. In the past several months, two homes have been completed, and a third is well underway.

2. Collegetown Terrace – The massive project that ate half of State Street. Phase II is currently underway, with a completion set for next year. When all three phases are complete in 2014, the complex will have added over 650 beds to the Collegetown market (~1,250 gross), in 12 buildings ranging from 3-6 floors.

3. 107 Cook – The rebuild for the deadly fire that destroyed the previous 107 Cook in April 2011. 12 bedrooms, near completion.


1. 67 townhomes proposed in an area just off 79. The housing will be geared towards Cornell employees. Not off the ground yet, but I would expect approvals sometime in 2013.

2. Collegetown Crossing – A six story, 103-bed project (with ten more beds in a house on Linden that will be renovated as part of the project). The ground floor will house a pedestrian walk, a bus stop and commercial space, including a branch of Greenstar Co-Op. The project has gained some notoriety for seeking a huge parking variance, which has aroused the ire of some of its neighbors; a highly-criticized parking study had been conducted.  It does appear the project is close to approval, and if that happens, I’d expect construction to start around late Spring 2013, with an 18 month time frame.

News Tidbits 9/28/12: No Seriously, I Love A News Deluge…

28 09 2012

I feel like a clearing house at the moment, but a bunch of little tidbits have been proposed/modified lately that merit a brief blurb before I return to non-newsy matters.

-67 new townhouses are proposed for the Eastwood Commons area, a relatively dense development out within the suburban neighborhoods south-southeast of Cornell.

The development consists of duplex-style townhomes with a couple of side streets, not new urbanist but definitely in the realm of nodal development. The town will be pleased.

Worth noting, the land needed for the developed is being bought from Cornell. One of the stipulations for this sale is that Cornell employees be given priority for sales; INHS may offer some programming assistance for CU employees with modest incomes.

News item number two comes out from the Ithacan, IC’s newspaper. The Hotel Ithaca project, which was rebranded to a Marriott, has released an updated rendering. While the cladding, roof-ware and entry area have been changed substantially, the building retains its general shape and configuration (however, the changes still need to be re-approved). The project is shooting for a March 2013 construction launch.

While I would prefer they keep the “Hotel Ithaca” theme with it’s Zinck’s-branded bar, I have no qualms about the proposed design – the lines are clean, vaguely modern, and it seems to fit in with the other recent development in the downtown area (this statement assumes homogeneity is preferable). Also, I’d like someone to explain to me all the tallish buildings in the background – are they attempting to make Ithaca look bigger, or attempting to make the building look smaller?

Last on the news wire is that the Collegetown Crossing project, the rather controversial six-story building proposed for the 300 block of College Avenue. The project has obtained an agreement to a 20-year lease from local grocery store co-op Greenstar. This is important for two reasons – the city and many local residents have expressed strong interest in a C-Town grocery store, and it also makes the project lass likely to be just another empty storefront. However, it’ll be a while before Greenstar has to worry about its second third location, since the project is still caught up in red tape with obtaining zoning variances, especially for parking. This project would likely not open until at least 2014, assuming it gets approved in the next few months.

Scoundrel, or Scapegoat?

18 09 2012

The Sun’s piece regarding the problems with Jason Fane is nothing new. Previous articles over the past several years have done the exact same thing. I personally have never, ever been a fan of Jason Fane. So, since he is the (man? villain?) of the hour, I figured it was worth taking a look at the man who owns so much of Ithaca.

Jason Fane, from as far as I can tell, has been a major landlord in the Ithaca area since the mid-1970s. He is New York bred, holds a civil engineering degree from MIT and a Harvard MBA, and is about 70 years old. The recent Sun article notes that his tenants refused to pay rent in 1974, citing deplorable maintenance of his properties. In 1979, he feuded with the city building commissioner, who condemned one of his properties (with 15 occupants still living in it). An academic study of Ithaca compares quotes from him in 1975 to 2000, where he goes from saying “students aren’t interested in aesthetics” to students “are looking for quality”. By quality, we’re talking $1,400/month in rent. To be fair, Jason Fane knows his business…and for better or worse, he knows how to milk his stakeholders to his advantage.

Cornell has a fairly wealthy student body, such that extremely high rents are acceptable, as some students have the means (or rather, their families do) to afford such rates. Business owners, however, tend to be a different story. A student pays high rents because of proximity to Cornell and high quality of services. For a business, setting up in Collegetown means suffering a major lack of business during academic breaks, not to mention extremely high rents for choice, high-traffic locations…many of which are owned by Jason Fane. As long as the apartments are rented, Fane has no need to try and fill the commercial space, no matter how much students, residents and local officials complain. He’s still making a tidy sum from his residential units, and rather than cut prices to lure in shopkeepers, would prefer to wait until that day when someone is willing to pay his high price – because occasionally, someone will.

Let’s be clear – the man is rich. He owns a real estate empire that stretches from New York City to Toronto, where he is currently developing high-rise condo towers. For more proof, here’s an article where he goes to court over $850k in gold and silver bullion. He also isn’t afraid to weigh in on anything that may affect his business – he was a major opponent of the Cayuga Green apartment project, and he also tried to have the city building commissioner shut down Cornell’s temporary freshman housing in student lounges – presumably, because both had an impact on his business.  He is not the compassionate and caring businessman pro-commerce groups like to promote. In fact, a few other c-words – cold, calculating, and controlling – come to mind instead.
In all fairness, Mr. Fane is under no obligation to fill the space, unless he feels a need to deepen his pockets further. But it certainly isn’t doing him any favors in the communities he’s invested in. I guess when you own ten Collegetown properties, several more in downtown Ithaca, and a couple suburban properties, you can afford to do as you please.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91 other followers