1. Leading off for the week, here’s an interesting piece of news: the city is set to repeal the Collegetown Parking Overlay Zone (CPOZ). The CPOZ was enacted in 2000 as a way to control the parking needs of Collegetown – essentially, it mandated more parking spaces per unit than was standard for a parcel’s zoning. For example, an apartment building of 6 occupants, zoned R-3a, would require 2 off-street parking spaces in Fall Creek, one for every three residents. But on East Hill, that same building would require 3 parking spaces, since the CPOZ mandates 1 off-street space for every 2 residents.
At the time, it made sense; East Hill tends to have more students, who bring their cars to school. But in the past 15 years, the proportion of students bringing cars has declined substantially – a study by Randall/West indicated that in 2000, 49% of Cornell students owned a car; by 2012, it was 27%, a change attributed to the rise of alternative transportation (car share, Cornell-subsidized bus passes), economic and cultural changes. At this point, there’s more parking than there is necessary.
It may seem at first glance that the CPOZ was eliminated with the Collegetown Form Zoning enacted last year, but the two maps don’t match up completely- there are 145 properties that weren’t affected by the new form zoning, but are still covered by the CPOZ parking requirement (see map above). Nearly all of these parcels are a part of the East Hill Historic District (the rest being Collegetown Terrace). A few recent cases, one with Collegetown Terrace and a couple of smaller projects, have highlighted the point that parking requirements have become excessive.
A change to the parking requirements could have a couple of desirable effects – one, less parking would be more historically accurate, and helps to preserve green space in the neighborhood. Two, it opens the idea of replacing a couple of the current parking lots with new housing, which would be designed to fit in closely with the current building stock since the properties are located in the East Hill Historic District (I know, landlords will never give up the money from renting spaces, but perhaps a new small apartment house might be more lucrative than a parking lot; looking at the tax maps, there are a few possible sites, including subdivisions). One mixed effect would be that it’s easier to convert a current single-family lot to student rentals, but the rental would now be less visually intrusive with fewer parking spaces. It’ll be interesting to see what comes forth as a result of this zoning repeal.
2. Among other zoning changes being considered is a change to industrial zones (the city has just a few). Commercial buildings can be built in industrial zones, but the city wants to raise the minimum number of floors for new commercial buildings in these zones to increase from 1 to 2 floors, a nod to the paucity of undeveloped land in the city (and perhaps the painful attraction of suburban big box stores). There are five sites on the map above, but it might as well be three – Emerson (lower right) is becoming a planned development zone, and the Ithaca Gun site (upper right) is expected to be rezoned from industrial to medium-density residential, in preparation for an apartment project still in the works.
3. What is up with the proposed hotels constantly delaying their schedules? First the Marriott pushed back its opening from Spring 2016 to Q3 (July-September) 2016. Now the Canopy Hilton is pushing their schedule back, from a construction start this Spring to an autumn start, which makes it difficult if not impossible to realize the cost savings from reusing the crane for the Carey Building. The tax abatements aren’t going to take that long to obtain, maybe another month or two before the county takes its vote.
Presumably, the project would open in autumn 2016 if the construction schedule is similar. But I feel like these delays send a message of incompetence, and that’s the last thing a project needs.
4. Maybe the article I wrote about the new INHS project will have run in the Voice by the time this auto-publishes. But here’s a render that I decided to leave out of the final article to minimize space. The city uploaded the initial application Friday morning (sketch plan will be presented this month), and I’ll write a follow-up article, based on the application paperwork (so it will be different from the Voice article), and post it here on Ithacating in the next few days.
5. Staying on the topic of affordable housing, these agenda notes from IURA Neighborhood Investment Committee reminded me of another affordable housing project that totally slipped off the radar- Cayuga Meadows, a 62-unit apartment building for seniors that was approved by the town of Ithaca for a site near Overlook at West Hill in late 2012. On page 52, it’s noted that the project is supposed to open in November 2015. That would imply that it should be starting construction soon if site prep hasn’t started already (I haven’t visited the site in over a year, so I have no clue). The pipeline document is dated from February 2014, so I have no idea if that’s still accurate. I emailed its developer, Conifer LLC, to see if the project was active, but received no response. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on.