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  #1301  
Old Posted Jan 6, 2011, 11:13 PM
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Seems ecologically friendly (at least compared to the McMansion projects elsewhere in the Town), and this is located just outside the City of Ithaca limits. From the Ithaca Journal:


Belle Sherman cottage project moving forward
Project gets preliminary site approval

By Rachel Stern •rstern@gannett.com • January 5, 2011, 6:05 pm

The Belle Sherman Cottages project moved one step closer to final approval, Town of Ithaca planning Director Susan Ritter said.

The project, on Mitchell Street, involves the development of 19 single-family houses and 10 attached townhouse units on 3.1 acres of land. The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to grant preliminary site-plan and preliminary subdivision approval.

The proposal will now go to the town board and public works committee before the final site plan and subdivision plan are put in front of the planning board. That will probably happen in late February or early March, Ritter said.

The Belle Sherman Cottages project will also involve a new private road between Worth Street and Clover Lane, new storm water facilities, a play area, landscaping, sidewalks and a new connection to the East Ithaca Recreation Way.

"The board determined that the project does not have a significant environmental impact, so they granted approval," Ritter said.

Before final approval, the project must meet certain conditions, she said. For example, the town board must approve the rezoning of the property from a high-density residential zone to a new planned development zone.

"There is a whole list of conditions that must be met, but the rezoning is the most important condition," Ritter said.

In other business, board members completed their review of the final environmental impact statement for the Holochuck Homes Subdivision proposed for a site behind the Museum of the Earth between routes 96 and 89.

Ritter said the next step is for the board to review a new version of the environmental impact statement. Board members suggested some changes and will most likely look at the revised version of the statement during the Feb. 1 meeting, she said.

The proposal involves building 106 town homes in a development with two entrances from Route 96. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation proposed acquiring most of the eastern portion of the property to go along with the development of the future Black Diamond Trail.


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...moving+forward


Here's a link to the Belle Sherman project (with link to site plan): http://www.agoradevelopment.com/Current_Projects.html
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  #1302  
Old Posted Jan 8, 2011, 1:53 AM
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A residential development takes another step forward in a small town a few miles outside of Ithaca. From the Ithaca Journal:


Dryden planning board OKs development near high school
By Aaron Munzer •Correspondent • January 7, 2011, 6:20 pm

The Village of Dryden planning board unanimously approved a preliminary site plan review of the Poet's Landing housing development at its regular meeting Thursday evening.

The proposed neighborhood, which will have subsidized, low-income housing, will comprise 10 apartment buildings and a larger seniors complex, with a total of 144 units, at 111 Freeville Road, on 11 acres of a 45-acre parcel that includes wetlands across from Dryden High School.

Although the board's vote was unanimous, member Les Cleland said he voted yes reluctantly, based on the fact that the development will add traffic near the high school and will have an effect on "the safety of children who will have to cross the street, and children walking from the village."

"I don't think we've totally taken care of the safety issues," Cleland said.

About two dozen residents were at the meeting, and most were unhappy with the project, for either safety concerns based on its proximity to the high school, or because of the possibility it could make flooding worse. Part of the development lies in the 100-year flood plain, and construction will remove a large swath of runoff-retaining vegetation currently on the site and replace it with lawn and concrete.

"We have flooding issues now, and even though they're saying it won't be a problem, we can't know," said parent and neighbor Dawn Tordel, who lives on Greystone Drive.

To mitigate safety concerns, the project will include a crosswalk, signs and flashing yellow lights at the intersection between the high school and the development, and a large holding pond to keep runoff from contributing to flooding, said Gene German, chairman of the board.

In addition, the developers, Rochester-based Conifer Realty, will have other conditions to fulfill, including an additional, independent stormwater study to determine if the project will increase the risk that nearby Egypt Creek could flood during storms. The project has been before the planning board for at least a year, and the conditions "had gone far enough" for his satisfaction, German said.

Mayor Randy Sterling, who was present at the meeting, said he supported the board's decision and that the new development will provide the area with working-class housing.

"We have no new developments right now," Sterling said. "Dryden needs this."

The project is about three quarters complete, said John Caruso of Passero Associates, the developers' representative at the meeting, and will now be reviewed by code enforcement officials for proper permitting before moving to the construction phase.


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...ar+high+school
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  #1303  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2011, 3:36 AM
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If financing loosens up any time, I believe the waterfront area will be poised for a mini-boom. From the ithaca Times:



The inlet provides water access to properties along Taughannock Boulevard that are in an area being considered for rezoning by the City of Ithaca to help spur development along the waterfront. (Photo by Rachel Philipson)



Zoning changes being considered for Ithaca's waterfront to spur development
Joseph Murtagh
Reporter

The City of Ithaca is considering rezoning large sections of Ithaca's Waterfront in order to spur economic development in the area. The proposal stems from a 2008 informational session that city planning staff held with Common Council to discuss a vision for development on Inlet Island, said Jennifer Kusznir, a planner for the City of Ithaca.

"At the 2008 meeting, Common Council expressed support for mixed-use development that would allow access to the waterfront," said Kusznir. "They were in favor of taller buildings, up to five stories in height, as long as they were well-designed. Staff was asked to evaluate the existing zoning to see if it was appropriate for this type of development. As we began to consider the zoning on Inlet Island, it became clear that it would be more appropriate to look at all of the waterfront zoning together."

The current zoning on the waterfront is split into six different districts -- four waterfront zoning districts, one marine zoning district and one west end zoning district. The proposal put forth by the Planning Department would consolidate all of these districts into a single waterfront zoning district, which the Planning Department expects would allow for the desired amount of development and create consistency along the waterfront.

"City staff has proposed consolidating all of the different zones on the waterfront into one consistent zone for all of the mixed-use development areas along the waterfront," said Kusznir. "This will simplify the zoning and make it easier for development to happen in these areas."

The proposed new zoning district (called WF-1) would allow for all of the primary uses that were allowed in the old WF-1 district, with the exception that drive through restaurants would not be permitted. The allowable building heights in the new district are proposed at three-to-five stories, with the exception of water-dependent uses, which would not be subject to the minimum building height. The proposal also states that the first 25 feet along the Flood Control Channel must remain open and unencumbered, and that all land along the waterfront must remain open to the public. Buildings may be built over the walkway, as long as they are at least 12-feet off the ground, and any buildings facing the waterfront must have a 10-foot setback that is two-to-three stories high.

At the meeting of the Planning and Development Committee of Common Council on December 15, Kusznir gave a presentation on the proposed zoning changes, and while committee members questioned some of the specifics of the proposal -- including whether it made sense to extend the zoning changes to other areas of the waterfront, such as the Farmers Market -- the committee was in agreement about the need for the zoning change overall, especially on Inlet Island. Businesswoman Micky Roof, who owns the Jewelbox in Ithaca, and who was present at the Planning Committee meeting, said rezoning in Ithaca's West End is sorely needed.

"I fully support the comprehensive zoning," said Roof. "It's obvious the current zoning will not support the city's vision for mixed-use density development of this unique area. Making it uniform is important not only to the success of developers, but to the overall consistency of the aesthetics. If you take a look at places like San Antonio River Walk or Venice or Amsterdam, you'll see how attractive and functional areas like this can be."


Here's the link: http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...66&TM=81112.62
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  #1304  
Old Posted Jan 13, 2011, 11:31 PM
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Four articles related to transportation in Ithaca.
All from the Ithaca Journal.


1. The first is a street a block from my old apartment building, nice pic (typical Ithaca weather ).



The Board of Public Works of the City of Ithaca is getting ready to do design work prior to rebuilding Stewart Avenue between State Street and University Ave. The street is in need of complete reconstruction due to the deterioration of the concrete under the bricks, but work will not start until 2012 at earliest. The bricked surfaced area will be replaced with clay paving similar to that used in the 300 block of East State Street. (SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)


City plans Stewart Avenue reconstruction, but no date set
By Liz Lawyer •elawyer@gannett.com • January 12, 2011, 8:10 pm

A capital project to repair the potholed surface of Stewart Avenue is moving forward, but is still more than a year from getting started.

The City of Ithaca Board of Public Works is set to approve a $224,960 contract to design the project, but tabled the resolution Wednesday because it left out a designation for the project's environmental review.

Because the project will only redo work on an existing street, an in-depth environmental review is not required under the law, said Superintendent of Public Works Bill Gray. However, board members asked that the resolution explain that.

Gray said he expects the board to approve the amended resolution at the next meeting.

Funding for designing the project was approved in 2008, said city engineer Tom West. Designing and planning the project is expected to take 15 to 18 months, he said.

The project will include repaving the street between State St./Martin Luther King Jr. Street and University Avenue, and will replace the brick surface in the historic districts on Stewart Avenue.

West said the replacement of the brick surface rather than putting in asphalt was an important aspect of the project.

According to Gray, when the brick paving on Route 79 was removed and replaced with asphalt, an agreement was made that the brick on Stewart Avenue would be maintained and eventually replaced.

Also to be included in the project are intersection improvements, reconstruction of sidewalks, replacement of the traffic signal at State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street and the flashing signal at Buffalo Street, and any longterm utility upgrades needed beneath the road.

Funding for the project itself has not yet been secured, but Gray said he hopes to have the designs ready should state or federal funding for "shovel-ready" projects become available.

"It may not be done for a year or three," Gray said. "For us it's important to get the design work complete."

Cornell University has pledged to contribute to the project when the time comes, Gray said.

Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...ut-no-date-set



2. Not bad for a small city.

Neighbors: Ithaca Carshare rolls past 1,000 members
By Matt Hayes •mmhayes@gannett.com • January 12, 2011, 7:15 pm

The act of sharing, as most people first experience as small children, is not always easy. Now in its third year of operation, Ithaca Carshare has managed to make that act seem simple, welcoming its 1,000th member in early 2011.

The nonprofit is a template of logistics and common sense, explains member Elizabeth Harrod.

"Carsharing encourages you to plan ahead and to combine trips, and it also means you don't ever have to worry about taking a car to the shop," she said.

The Ithaca Carshare fleet includes 12 cars and a truck. Carshare credits its new Easy Access plan, designed for limited-income households, as a way to provide reliable transportation to Ithacans of all income levels. Federal grant funds have helped significantly reduce rates to members within eligible income limits.

Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...+1+000+members



3. When reading the numbers for this one, please remember Ithaca is a small city, but still nice to see folks using the bus.


TCAT breaks ridership record for fourth straight year
By Liz Lawyer •elawyer@gannett.com • January 7, 2011, 6:15 pm

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit broke its own ridership records for the fourth consecutive year in 2010, with more than 3.57 million rides.

TCAT's Service and Operations Analyst Doug Swarts said reports from other municipal transportation services are that ridership is generally trending down in most places, while TCAT saw a 6.3 percent increase.

TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte attributed the jump in ridership to TCAT's implementation of more efficient and streamlined routes that went into effect a year ago. TCAT also launched a new fare collection system, called RideLogic, featuring the rechargeable Tcard. The new system, created by Ithaca-based Black Box Computer Consulting, enables TCAT to better track ridership and adjust routes based on demand.

Turcotte predicts with increasing gas prices, TCAT will continue to gain ridership in 2011.

"In a strained economy, more and more people -- and the economy as a whole -- become dependent on a sound public transit system," he said.

Turcotte said TCAT will continue to search for additional savings in 2011.

"We're looking for creative ways to save money," he said. "We're very lean today, and we're working hard to keep the level of service that we have."

Swarts also said he believes the new route system has captured more ridership. In addition, Swarts said, the new electronic fare collection system provides for a much more accurate accounting of rides that may have been missed by the former paper pass system.

"This is all very exciting," Swarts said of the new ridership numbers. "We now have tangible proof that our new route system is an overwhelming success. In addition, our ability to track and study real-time data with RideLogic enables us to continuously take the pulse of our passengers and make adjustments as needed."

TCAT's historical ridership data and percentage year-to-year change:

Year Riders Pct. Change

2006 3,065,309 -0.9%

2007 3,106,215 1.3%

2008 3,317,716 6.8%

2009 3,351,817 1.0%

2010 3,577,579 6.3%


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011101070341



4. Once again, the numbers aren't large, but this is encouraging.


Passenger traffic soars to record at Ithaca airport
2010 airline increase spurs lower fares

By Liz Lawyer •elawyer@gannett.com • January 12, 2011, 12:00 am

For the first time, the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport had more than 120,000 passengers pass through its gates in 2010.

A total 121,334 passenger boardings beat a previous record for the airport of 114,154 boardings in 1990. In December, 76.2 percent of available seats on flights out of Ithaca were filled, compared to 71.7 percent during the same period in 2009 and 61.5 percent in 2008.

"In a recession, that's pretty amazing," airport manager Bob Nicholas said. "It flies in the face of what's happening elsewhere."

Nicholas said Ithaca is bucking the trend at other airports because air service has become more competitive here.

"The reason it's different from most other airports is because we happen to have gained enough air service that the air fares are now competitive," Nicholas said. "There are three airlines competing for service here, and as you know, competition brings down prices ... We used to lose half our passengers to Syracuse because their prices were so reasonable compared to ours. Our airfares are cheaper than Syracuse now."

Nearly half of the flights out of the airport are US Airways flights, with Continental and Delta accounting for about 22 percent and 30 percent of the flights, respectively.

Nicholas said as a smaller airport, Ithaca has fewer flight options, but makes up for it in other ways, such as short check-in and security lines and more personable employees.

"Regular travelers are tired of dealing with larger airports," he said.


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011301120004
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  #1305  
Old Posted Jan 19, 2011, 4:00 PM
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Though I'd rather see the building put to commercial use, I guess this is better than having it sit empty. I wish the county would seriously consider building a new office building downtown (there are vacant lots around), or tear down the old library building and build there.
Article from the Ithaca Times online:



Cars drive past the former Carpet Bazaar store on West State Street/West Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The location is in the process of being purchased by Tompkins County for use as the new home for the Office for the Aging. (Photo by Rachel Philipson)

Tompkins County: Former Carpet Bazaar space to become new home for Office for the Aging

Joseph Murtagh
Reporter

Tompkins County is in the process of purchasing the building that until recently was occupied by Carpet Bazaar, located at 214-216 W. State St./W. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. in Ithaca to house the County Office for the Aging.

The decision was made, said County Administrator Joe Mareane, because the space currently occupied by the COFA on the ground floor of the county courthouse must be vacated to comply with the New York State Court Facilities Act, which mandates that counties provide adequate space to accommodate the state's court system.

"Some time ago we began the process of looking for another location for the County Office of the Aging, because we had to make space in our courthouse, and we decided on this downtown location," said Mareane. "The thing to remember here is that we're not doing this for our creature comfort. It's not to create elbow room. We're under a state mandate."

Mareane said the Carpet Bazaar building was chosen because of its accessibility to clients, its relatively affordable renovation costs, and the presence of other government offices on the same street. The building comes with a price tag of $600,000, which will be paid off in a structured sale that will provide payments of $52,000 per year for 15 years. The sale is contingent on the building having a clean bill of environmental health, added Mareane.

The West End neighborhood has seen a spurt of economic growth in recent years, and some have expressed concern that a government office would clash with the culture of business development in the area, which includes restaurants, coffee shops and bars. "I was pretty disappointed when I heard about the prospective sale," said an Ithaca business owner who was interested in purchasing the building who wished to remain anonymous. "Those couple of blocks could use development, and I don't think a government building is right for that area."

According to Mareane, however, the location of the building could add to the economic health of the area, a view that was seconded by County Legislator Carol Chock.

"There's a lot of staff who work at the County Office of the Aging, and they take lunch breaks," said Chock.

Nevertheless, Chock was one of those who voted against the purchase of the building when it came before the Tompkins County Legislature. The Legislature approved the sale of the building by a vote of 11-3, with Legislators Chock, Frank Proto and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne voting no.

Chock said she voted against the purchase of the building because she didn't want to preempt any plans by the City of Ithaca to develop the neighborhood.

"I'm supportive of moving the County Office of the Aging to that location, but I thought we should have checked with Ithaca city planning staff first, just to see if they had any plans for the area," said Chock.


Here's the link: http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...09&TM=39230.71
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  #1306  
Old Posted Jan 21, 2011, 2:23 AM
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Hey Ex, I saw this story on the Ithaca Times's website and I wondered if the company was a local relocation or if it was actually bringing jobs to the area. 85 jobs is a fairly big deal for Tompkins County. What do you think?

http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...38&TM=76907.68

Ben Gustafson of Hunt Engineers gave a presentation to the Ulysses town board at their first regular meeting of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 11. Gustafson represented the new owner of a commercial property on Rt. 96 near Krums Corners Road, formerly occupied by Babcock Poultry. The new owner plans a machine shop that will employ 85 people on the site. This use will require re-zoning the parcel from a commercial to a light-industrial designation.

There are two buildings on site. The office building is closer to the road and the former hatchery is behind it. Plans shown to the town board by Gustafson outlined additions to the old hatchery and reorientation of paved areas. The engineer said that the existing asphalt was not salvageable.

"We are requesting that you rezone this parcel to light industry," Gustafson said. "This is in accord with the town's comprehensive plan, which suggests that this area be offices, technology businesses, and light industry." The comprehensive plan does specify "land uses within the Office and Technology Mixed Use classification include: office, research and development, light industrial, overnight lodging accommodations, and commercial and service businesses that support area workers and residents." Gustafson said that the owner intended to hire from the regional pool of skilled workers.

He also argued that the new facility would provide a benefit to the community. "The survey associated with the comprehensive plan established that the residents want employment opportunities in the town," said Gustafson, "but they don't want retail jobs in big box stores, but would rather of this kind of [light industrial] work." Of the 85 jobs promised eight to 10 will be administrative with the remainder being three shifts of 25 positions in the machine shop.

The machine shop will get three deliveries of processed steel per week, always during daylight hours. The trucks, according to Gustafson, will back entirely into the building to unload. Deliveries of finished goods will leave the shop in panel trucks, also during the day.

(...)
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  #1307  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2011, 3:31 PM
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Thanks for the info Vis. I don't know the company, but any new jobs is OK by me. I remember the old Babcock farm just off the T-burg road, good to see something positive happening with the property. And it's gotta smell better than all those chickens use to.
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Old Posted Jan 25, 2011, 9:37 PM
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So I was reading through the planning board agenda, and it appears that the 60-unit apartment with ground-level retail proposed for 307 College Avenue is actually six stories, not five. Also, the proposed building for 140 Seneca Way (an apartment building with a commercial base) is five stories (which means it will need a height variance - the document says it needs a setback and parking variance as well). The approval process for the Collegetown Terrace project is nearly complete.

I have to admit, given the economic climate and the size of Ithaca, the scale of these projects is impressive. It's a shame that they all need zoning appeals to be approved - something that will require a lot of hoop-jumping in the upcoming months.

Last edited by Visiteur; Jan 25, 2011 at 9:37 PM. Reason: Grammar fail.
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  #1309  
Old Posted Jan 28, 2011, 2:19 PM
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Does anyone know the true identity of the developer doing the Seneca Way apartment project? I think it's Newman Development out of Vestal, but I'm not sure...
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  #1310  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2011, 12:29 AM
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^ I don't know, but it's listed as Fall Creek Development LLC in the planing board agenda.


Now for some NIMBYs run amok:
First is an OPED piece from the Ithaca Journal. And Bryant Park area is several blocks from the proposed development.


More student housing invades city's East Hill neighborhood
By William F. Olney • January 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Comments(24)Recommend(13)
It is a sad moment when things don't go your way. It is even sadder when a whole neighborhood is ignored. Residents of the Bryant Park neighborhood on East Hill are facing such distress.

Developer John Novarr is forging ahead with plans to add approximately 600-plus student housing units to our East Hill neighborhood, doubling the student population already in place. He will be tearing down 30-plus houses in order to construct several large dormitory-style housing units along East State, Quarry Street and Valentine Place.

This raises numerous and significant concerns with family residents who live nearby. Noise, traffic and safety are primary concerns, but also high on the list are longer-term damaging effects to our neighborhood. And given the height of these new structures, this is a huge variance request.

It is pretty widely accepted that family housing and dense student housing don't mix. Each group has wildly different views, issues and priorities. Our neighborhood is already surrounded on three sides by dense student housing. This project will intensify the pressures facing East Hill residents and erode the attributes we seek in a healthy middle-class neighborhood. Solitude and views, both important factors for healthy neighborhoods to thrive, will all but disappear under this plan.

We may need density in the city, but density that adds to Ithaca's charm and character — attributes this project doesn't provide. Right or wrong, this is the direction city planning is going.

More than 100 families have signed a "Petition of Concern" regarding this project. After all, this is where we live. Dozens of others have submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); most of these concerns were either overlooked, ignored or not taken seriously. The Board of Zoning Appeals now has before it the final decision to grant a height variance for these buildings, angering many as views of South Hill will be totally obliterated. The buildings range from four to seven stories in height and could easily be reduced with more attention to outdoor parking. Lowering the height of building by 3.2 feet will at least preserve neighbors' views of South Hill.

The BZA, Planning Board and developer have barely acknowledged neighborhood concerns, and the BZA is now on the verge of giving its final approval to the height variance for the project — almost a 50 percent difference in height than what is permitted by the existing zoning, tantamount to a rezoning of the entire property.

We who live in this neighborhood can only hope the BZA gives serious thought to its decision, as it will affect an entire neighborhood, not just a few folks. If approved, the project will undoubtedly haunt us for the next 30 to 40 years. There is already a precarious imbalance of family and student housing in the area, which calls out for neighborhood preservation.

We can only hope the BZA does the right thing Feb. 1 and lessens the impact wherever possible of such a humongous undertaking. Let's send the developer back to the drawing board. Ithaca deserves better than this.
Olney is an East Hill resident. Thirteen other neighbors also signed this piece.


Here's the link (with a bunch of interesting comments):

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...2/1129/ARCHIVE


Here's another one from the Ithaca Journal:


Moratorium on West Hill development still being considered
Ithaca town planning committee said to be close to making recommendation to town board
By Rachel Stern •rstern@gannett.com • January 26, 2011, 6:20 pm

There is no moratorium on building in the West Hill area of the Town of Ithaca -- not yet, at least.

But discussions continued Tuesday night at the Town of Ithaca Planning Committee meeting about a possible moratorium. And while there was no vote on whether to bring that proposal to the Town Board, committee Chairman Rich Depaolo said he thinks a decision is close.

"We owe it to ourselves and the community to do it right and I hope the moratorium is forwarded to the town board at our next committee meeting," he said. "The sooner we get going with the long-overdue analysis, the sooner we can get done with it."

The moratorium would give the town a chance to look at traffic patterns, analyze existing data and answer the "magic question," DePaolo said -- what happens when 4,000 people are placed in the neighborhood?

"What does that do to traffic? Does it tax sewer and water infrastructure? A lot of questions need to be answered that haven't been answered," he said.

The town has wrestled with managing growth patterns in the West Hill area for the past two years, DePaolo said. The idea of nodal development has been raised.

DePaolo describes nodal development as a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use environment where people do not have to drive everywhere for everything. There must be a certain amount of people, roughly 4,000, to attract a mass transit system, he said.

The nodal area would be located between Route 79 and Route 96, he said.

But a lot of questions must be answered before nodal development can be allowed, DePaolo said. And to adequately answer those questions, a moratorium is needed, he said.

"I think as a community, we would take a one-year break from allowing large scale development, and then be able to move forward," he said.

The moratorium would not apply to smaller things, such as additions on homes. But he said it would apply to large-scale residential subdivisions.

At the end of a moratorium, DePaolo said, it may become evident that a node simply would not work and would just make traffic worse. But at least the proper time would have been spent to evaluate the idea, he added.

"We need to arrive at a situation that is fair to developers and residents. We don't want to scare people away, but rather try and create a system that works for everyone. There needs to be forethought," he said

Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011101260357



Finally from the Cornell Daily Sun. I don't get his, it's a single story taller, and it's in downtown.


Developers presented preliminary proposals for the Seneca Way Apartments (seen in rendering above) to the City of Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board on Tuesday. Courtesy of the Site Plan Review Application Report.



Community Members Criticize Proposed Building Near Commons

January 26, 2011
By Hank Bao
Developers behind a proposal to construct a mixed use building near Ithaca’s Commons made preliminary steps toward completion at a contentious Planning and Development Board meeting Tuesday.

The proposed building, at 140 Seneca Way, would create new commercial and residential space, replacing the vacant building formerly occupied by Challenge Industries, a nonprofit organization.

The proposal drew heated opposition, however, from the neighbors of East Seneca Street whose backyards are adjacent to the back of the proposed development.

The planned building will house a first floor reserved for commercial use, two parking lots, a fitness center and four floors for residential apartments.

Last night, the building’s developers made progress by getting the Planning Board to declare its intent to be the lead agency of the proposal’s environmental review — but the developers still have many obstacles to overcome on their way to the project’s completion.

To construct the building, the project team must first obtain several variances — or exemptions — from city zoning laws. One variance would allow the building to reach 58 feet, 18 feet more than the current maximum. Another would allow the development to be built 16 feet farther back than is currently allowed. The developers are also requesting variances for parking and loading spaces.

The variances are the parts of the plan that drew the ire of the E. Seneca Street residents.

“It is the wrong project for the wrong site,” said Virginia Augusta, who lives at 419 E. Seneca Street, less than a block away from the proposed development.

Another neighbor, Barbara Lance, voiced concerns on quality of life issues. She said she was worried about the safety and happiness of the families affected.

Specifically, Lance cited the shadow the new building would cast on their backyards and the loss of the tree line, which she said would be razed if the developer, Brian Warren of Warren Real Estate, is allowed to build deeper.

“I appreciate the developers talking to us, but they are not in the least bit receptive to our concerns,” she said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Board Chairman John Schroeder ’74, who is also The Sun’s Production Manager, read three letters from citizens concerned with the project who did not attend.

“I cannot support the Seneca Way project in its current form since it is the wrong size and the wrong location,” Matthew Clark, Augusta’s husband, stated in a letter.

“We are doing everything we can to work with the neighbors, but it is not economical to make it smaller,” Warren said.

Warren now owns the land, but he still has to close the deal with Challenge.

The developers, including Warren, have met with the neighbors of E. Seneca Street twice, including once this past Sunday.

Warren said any other plans for the building would be extremely difficult and may not even be possible due to the physical layout of the property: 140 Seneca Way is located at the bottom of a steep hill on which the Seneca Street properties sit.

“It is very important for me to communicate with the neighbors and keep open communication,” Warren said.

The E. Seneca Street properties lie in the ward of Ithaca City Councilmember Eric Rosario ’91 (I - 2nd Ward).

“I’m willing to support some change but not as tall and not as far back,” Rosario said. “Go back to the property owner so it will be financially feasible to reduce the height and proximity to something that has less impact.”

“We are taking an old beat up building, not refurbishable, to make it a significant, strong investment in downtown Ithaca … These market-rate apartments are exactly what is needed in this community,” Warren said.


Here's the link:

http://www.cornelldailysun.com/secti...g-near-commons
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  #1311  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2011, 5:41 PM
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Residents near proposed downtown project are literally saying "not in our back yards". Article from the Ithaca Times:



The former Challenge building looms large for these East Seneca Street families who are concerned that redevelopment of that site -- with five variances being requested -- will have a dramatic negative impact on their neighborhood. (Photo by Rachel Philipson)


E. Seneca St. residents concerned about proposal for Challenge site

Joseph Murtagh
Reporter

A plan by local developer Bryan Warren to tear down the old Challenge building and erect a five-story building supporting commercial and residential uses has brought to light a fundamental tension between two different areas in the city: The downtown commercial zone, which favors the creation of high-density housing to attract young professionals and empty nesters downtown, and the historic East Hill neighborhood, which is comprised of several single-family homes. The Challenge site lies at "transition" zone between these two areas, posing certain difficulties for development, said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

"It's one of the more difficult construction sites in the city," said Ferguson. "It would be a lot easier to put this housing site on a cornfield somewhere, but as it is, you're kind of stuck between these two neighborhoods, and there's not a whole lot of wriggle room."

At its January meeting, the board of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance drafted a pair of resolutions in support of the project, said Ferguson, who thinks that the sort off mixed-use project that Warren's development team put forth is vital for Ithaca's downtown.

"There is a very strong need for housing downtown, and that's a huge part of what we're talking about here," said Ferguson. "The housing that will be created by the Seneca Way project fits in with the type of housing that the city needs.

Other downtown business owners agree.

"I think the overall positives of this project outweigh the negatives," said Ursula Kerman Browning, who owns Viva Tacqueria and sits on the board of the DIA. "It's the Ithaca Gun story: Do you want a useless building that's just sitting there not collecting property taxes, or do you want a vibrant project in the middle of downtown?"

But residents along East Seneca Street, while they say they are not against development of the Challenge site in principle, are worried that the proposed building will impact the historic nature of their neighborhood. Their concerns chiefly revolve around the height of the building: The current B-4 zoning designation allows for four stories, but the development team is seeking five variances. The variances would allow a height of 56 feet, five stories, as well as changes to parking and loading requirements, and setbacks. That doesn't sit well with the neighbors, who say they will be staring at a wall if the building goes forward in its current form.

"The biggest concerns for us are the height of the building and how close it's going to be to the back of our properties," said Susan Robertson, who lives at 403 E. Seneca St. Robertson added that she has a long-term concern for the neighborhood, which has seen a dramatic shift in the last 15 years from rental properties to single-family homes.

"Currently there's a great blend of families and professionals here, plus a number of families with young children, and I'm worried that a project like this might shift the balance to the condition of East Seneca Street about 15 years ago, when there were far fewer owner-occupied homes," said Robertson, who added that some of her neighbors have threatened to move if the project goes forward under the current proposal.

"As far as moving out goes, that would be us for sure," said Robertson's neighbor Virginia Augusta, who has four children and has lived in the East Seneca Street for more than a decade. "We don't want to move, but this would put it over top. I'm not anti-business, I'm not anti-development, but we've invested a huge amount in this neighborhood and I don't think it's fair for an outside developer to swoop in here and partner up with Bryan Warren and plop this bizarre looking tower thing down in our backyards."

Augusta added that she is not against development of the Challenge site per se, but she would like to see the developers propose a building that fits better with the historic character of the surrounding neighborhood. Unlike the middle of downtown, where a six-story building would be appropriate, said Augusta, the Challenge site is a transitional area between the downtown commercial district and a historic residential area.

"There is a four-story zoning requirement there for a reason, because somebody realized this was an important threshold that shouldn't be crossed," said Augusta. "I would like to see the site developed, but just within the current zoning standards. Follow the rules. That's the cost of developing in this neighborhood. Everyone else has to take into account the historic nature of the neighborhood, and I don't see why it should be any different for these developers."

However, according to Warren, the project's developer, a four-story project of this type -- combining residential and commercial uses -- would be next to impossible financially.

"I would invite anybody to run the numbers and try to make it work with a four-story building," said Warren. "It might work with student housing. You could cram a bunch of student beds in there, but that's not the sort of project we're trying to do.

"This is a very risky site," he added. "It's been on the market for two years. Other developers have looked at it, and they've all taken a pass. Even what it would cost to tear down the old building, we're talking significant money. There are excavation costs, plus what it costs to actually build the building, not to mention the money we've already spent with Holt architects to come up with a plan. It will be a bankrupt project if we go with four stories."

Asked why he's interested in developing a project on such a risky site, Warren said that he's committed to the city's goal of seeing more high-density housing development in the downtown area and thinks a project like is in line with the city's vision. There is a high demand for housing and office space in downtown Ithaca, he noted, but it's possible for development projects to be thwarted by high taxes and public controversy, presenting a frustrating barrier to economic development.

"It seems like the City of Ithaca encourages developers to invest in downtown, but then you get to a certain point and certain people don't like it, and the minute you run into a little bit of controversy, suddenly everyone runs away and there's a different angle on it," said Warren. "I've met with the neighbors and we've had very good communication. It's not like we're shunning them. We're trying to make this work. We've been asked by many people to come up with attractive attributes that mitigate the impact of the site, and we're working on that."

According to Steve Hugo, principal with Holt Architects, several changes were made in the plans for the north faade of the building after meeting with the neighbors along East Seneca Street. In addition to these changes, the architects were also able to drop the building a foot down to 56 feet -- still 16 feet higher than what the current zoning permits.

"We added several architectural elements, including a bay window and pitched roofs, which are common features of residential architecture, the idea being to provide a smooth transition," said Hugo.

According to Augusta, however, the mitigating changes that have been proposed by the developers are superficial and don't alter the essential impact of the project.

"I can't express how irritating it is to be shown these plans for a second time and not see any changes," said Augusta. "What they've offered is window-dressing. Basically, we would still be looking out at this cement building. It's just ridiculous, a token extending of the hand."

At a meeting of the city's Planning Board last Tuesday, members of the Planning Board suggested the possibility of moving the north section of the building so that the faade runs along Seneca Way. This would remove the impact to the neighbors to the north, but there was some concern that it could adversely impact the former Unity House located next door, which is being renovated by a local developer into a boutique hotel. Moreover, the response from Warren's team was that such a move wouldn't be economically feasible.

"Totally re-orienting the building like that, changing the shape, would require multiple retaining walls, multiple levels of parking, and I think would greatly increase the cost beyond what is doable," said Hugo.

For Augusta and the other neighbors, it's been frustrating to hear the refrain that making significant alterations to the building wouldn't be "economically feasible."

"Who can dispute that it's not economically feasible?" said Augusta. "None of us, because we don't have the numbers. These guys are not doing this for charity. This is them going for the maximum profit they can get on the site. And I don't blame them for trying. But four stories is what it should be."

Councilman Eric Rosario, who represents the 2nd Ward on Common Council, said he believes the project should be scaled back and that the fact that the building needs five variances is a sign that the project is pushing at the edges of what is allowable under law.

"I think it's great the Bryan Warren is doing this, I think it's great that he's relying on two local architectural firms, but I think that everybody involved in this thing just needs to flex a little bit, whether it's Challenge maybe lowering its price, or Bryan Warren making some modifications, or the neighbors accepting some changes. We need to explore everything we can to make this project have less of an impact."

Here's the link:
http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...rticleID=13637



But here's an Op-Ed piece in the same Ithaca Times issue which supports the project:

Why Seneca Way Should Proceed
In the midst of the severest recession since the Great Depression, a development team from Ithaca and Binghamton has proposed an exciting project for the now empty and vacant Challenge Industries site. Their project, named Seneca Way, is a five-story mixed-use building consisting of 38 units of housing and 9,300 square feet of office space.

This site, located at the entrance to downtown on Route 79 at the base of East Hill, is a community gateway and one of the most visible development parcels in the city. It serves as the visual entrance to downtown and commands an important aesthetic location in the community. Today this location is represented by a vacant, obsolete building that has no landscaping, multiple curb cuts, and provides little aesthetic value to the community. By contrast, the Seneca Way project offers an attractive mid-level mixed-use project that fits into its downtown surroundings and provides an excellent entrance for downtown.

It is important to remember that there is a second neighborhood involved.... Downtown. The proposed project actually sits in the downtown neighborhood. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance, the formal elected organization that represents the owners, tenants, and residents of downtown, has officially endorsed and supported this project, and is urging the City Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals to act favorably. Downtown owners, businesses, and residents have voiced strong affinity for this project and the positive impact it will have on their neighborhood.

The historical use of this property has always been at odds with its uphill neighbors. The current building was originally constructed as a bustling factory that butted up to the base of East Hill and the East Seneca Street neighborhood. In recent years, the building was used by Challenge Industries as both office space, and as light manufacturing and assembly related sheltered workshop. The proposed Seneca Way project introduces housing to the site, a use far more compatible than the preceding historic uses.

The question about the need for more downtown housing arose during public comment. To the contrary, housing is very much needed. Even during this recession, the demand for downtown housing has remained robust at all price points. The DIA is commissioning a new housing market study later this year to help investors and lenders better understand and measure the depth and breadth of this demand. The Seneca Way project has also undertaken its own market study that has documented sufficient demand. The housing to be created by Seneca Way will help to further build the downtown residential environment long sought by the City.

The Seneca Way project evolved over time as the developer assessed the existing building and site, finally determining that an office and/or housing project would require demolition and subsequent new construction. This is why Challenge Industries chose to vacate the property. The cost to make the building suitable for office use was simply too great. The variances sought will help to make this new project financially feasible. If a height variance is not possible, the economically viable choices that fit within the current B4 zone become limited and may in fact be far less desirable and aesthetically pleasing than the proposed Seneca Way project. Among the uses approved by the B4 zone that might pass an economically feasible test are strip retail projects, a gas station, or a stand-alone retailer with needs for on-site parking.

Without density, this property will be difficult to redevelop. The height variance allows the developer to obtain the number of units and square feet needed to make the project cash flow. Without the height, the project would result in fewer housing units. Below a certain threshold, insufficient revenue is generated to support costs and it also becomes more expensive to provide ongoing management to the building.

Downtown development can improve nearby residential property values. One concern raised has been the potential for loss of value due to a project on the Challenge site. Historical evidence suggests an opposite outcome. A stronger, more vital downtown core with increased valuation and density development actually helps bolster adjacent residential neighborhood values. Should the Challenge site fall into long term vacancy and disrepair, this would more likely affect neighboring property values, but in a negative direction.

The Seneca Way project also minimizes loss of viewshed. Abutting and nearby residents have been justifiably concerned about their loss of viewshed. Recognizing this as a potential concern, the developers purposely designed the project to minimize viewshed loss. The skinny side of the building is turned toward Seneca Street, resulting in only a partial loss of view from any single location. Due to the grade change, only a handful of properties will experience any view shed losses at all.

The planned Seneca Way mixed-use housing and office project makes sense for the community. It is an appropriate and beneficial use for the location. It is a project that has listened to its neighbors and designed with their concerns in mind. It is a project that will return a tax exempt property to the City tax rolls. It is a project that contributes to the community goal of building housing in downtown Ithaca. For all these reasons it is a project that should move forward.

---

This guest opinion was written by Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.


Here's the link:
http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...rticleID=13647
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  #1312  
Old Posted Feb 13, 2011, 10:02 PM
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Seems like this project is taking forever to get started. (From the Cornell Daily Sun)

Responding to Community Concerns, Developer Revises Collegetown Terrace
February 9, 2011
By Hank Bao
At a special Planning and Development Board meeting on Monday, John Novarr, his team of developers and the board continued to review and revise the plans for the Collegetown Terrace project, which would demolish 29 buildings and create 16 new ones along the southern edge of Collegetown.

In response to requests from the board, Novarr redesigned much of his original 2009 proposal to minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. On Feb. 1, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted the development a height variance to allow for taller buildings in the interior of the development, an important step for the project.

The new proposal calls for smaller, separated structures along East State Street, instead of the larger apartment buildings that were originally proposed there.

Because the buildings are now broken up into smaller ones, Novarr’s development will have approximately 37 fewer bedrooms and 54 fewer parking spaces than the original proposal. Although smaller than first planned, the development will still add about 586 bedrooms and 279 parking spaces to Collegetown.

“Overall, I would say that the Collegetown Terrace project is vastly improved over the original site plan proposals presented last year,” Councilmember Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd Ward) said.

To minimize the development’s impact on neighborhood character, the architecture of the buildings was also changed.

These changes include varying the designs and emulating the existing buildings along East State Street, according to the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Though many of the neighborhood’s single-family homes are not in buildings officially designated as “historic,” some residents worry the new development will still alter the neighborhood’s character despite the changes, McCollister said.

Novarr first purchased this land in the area of Valentine Place, East State Street, Quarry Street and Six Mile Creek in the 1980s. When Novarr built his first set of apartments on the land in the 1980s, some Ithaca residents were so displeased with the new development that they moved out of their homes on East State Street, McCollister said. Still, she said Novarr’s revised plan for the land is more sensitive to the historic nature of the area.

Some buildings near the development are located in the East Hill Historic District, meaning that they cannot be torn down. These buildings — Quarry Arms, Casa Roma and the Boiler Works — will not be affected by the project. In addition, 901 East State Street, the George C. Williams House, will be refurbished as part of Novarr’s development plan. However, The Jane A. Delano Home, which includes two buildings located at 113-115 Valentine Place, does not lie in the East Hill Historic District. It will be removed to make way for the building. Last fall, the Common Council voted unanimously not to give the building historic designation.

“Yes it is tragic, and it wasn’t necessarily the notion that this building did not merit historic designation status, [but] it was just too late in the process to have this happen,” McCollister said.

The Planning and Development Board approved the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on Oct. 5. The approved FEIS reflects all the compromises and mitigations to which Novarr and the city of Ithaca Planning Board have agreed.

The project submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2010, and the Lead Agency, the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board, accepted it on June 1, 2010, according to the FEIS.

Here's the link: http://www.cornelldailysun.com/secti...etown-terrace-
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  #1313  
Old Posted Feb 13, 2011, 11:11 PM
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A couple more restaurants open in downtown, yum-yum. From the Ithaca Journal.


Downtown Ithaca holds ribbon cutting ceremonies today

The start of 2011 has brought two new businesses into Downtown Ithaca, both of which are food service establishments featuring ethnic cuisines. The newest addition to restaurant row on Aurora St. is Sahara while inside of Center Ithaca the Tibetan Momo bar has been added to the variety of options available in the food court. Two ribbon cuttings are scheduled to help welcome the new establishments to Downtown beginning at 2:30 on Thursday, Feb. 10 with a ceremony at Sahara which will be directly followed by the ribbon cutting for the Tibetan Momo Bar.

Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant is located at 118 N. Aurora St in the former Micawber's location and is owned by Holly and Maan Alzitoon. Prior to opening the couple had waited for several years to open a new restaurant, since closing King David's in Center Ithaca and their hope was to find a spot on restaurant row. Sahara features an eclectic array of cuisine from Mr. Maan's native country of Syria with a menu that is full of simple fresh ingredients using Middle Eastern/Mediterranean recipes.

Taking the place of the former King David location in Center Ithaca's food court is the Tibetan Momo Bar. Owned and operated by Yeshi Tsondu the location features a variety of his signature momo (dumpling) dishes. Mr. Tsondu was a mobile vendor this past summer on the Commons and opted for an indoor location when the weather turned cold. In addition to dumplings the menu has a host of other Japanese and Tibetan inspired dishes.


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20110210/BUSINESS/102100343/Downtown-Ithaca-holds-ribbon-cutting-ceremonies-today?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s
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  #1314  
Old Posted Feb 14, 2011, 3:36 PM
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A new apartment complex planned for Lansing. It is very, very suburban in design:

http://www.lansingstar.com/news-page...rtment-complex

"Village of Lansing Trustees considered a potential project Monday that would bring additional affordable housing to the Village and the County. The Lansing Reserve project is proposed for a 23 acre lot near Warren Road, between Dart and Northwoods Drives. It will consist of 65 town home units, each with an attached one car garage. Better Housing of Tompkins County will be the majority owner and manager of the project."

...

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  #1315  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2011, 11:08 PM
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^Well Vis, it is sprawlsville out there in Lansing. I wonder what the single family homeowners which surround the project are going to say.


Here's a guest letter to the Ithaca Journal which supports the project on Seneca Way (described in posts 1310 & 1311). it's from Mack Travis, a developer who owns a cuople of projects across State Street from the proposed new building:


Challenge plan would help keep city's downtown businesses viable

Written by
Mack Travis

If you are a neighbor living uphill from the old Challenge Industries site at the foot of State Street's hill, you may be familiar with the 1836 Walton Lithograph of Ithaca from the vantage point of East Hill. Down below in the town, one views a few church steeples and a respectable cluster of two- and three-story buildings. In the foreground, where Cornell University now stands, one looks over the livestock and farm fences down Seneca Street to the town.

If you are a member of the Ithaca City Council, you know the growth on the West End that has moved the retail center from the Commons to bigger stores there. You know the number of buildings off the tax rolls. You may have even attended the recent Sustainability Design Assessment Team (SDAT) conference. Eight architects and city planners from across the country came to Ithaca to study and recommend what we could do to improve the sustainability of our city. Their recommendation: We need to find reinforcement for retail as the major traffic generator in the central core of downtown.

That reinforcement, they reasoned, is housing. The trend today, not just in Ithaca but across the country, is for people to live downtown, close to work, shops, stores, entertainment and services. SDAT recommended a total of 1,500 units be constructed downtown.

The Challenge Building is a derelict building past saving. Between Challenge Industries and Tetra Tech, more than 250 workers and clients have left downtown. If we are not willing to face reasonable development in our downtown, many more businesses will exit. It is density alone that will make downtown economically viable. We need more housing, more offices and more specialty retail.

Bryan Warren is the third generation of the Warren Real Estate family; he built the new "Class A" brick Colonial-style building at Community Corners. He has a sterling reputation for quality projects; he has assembled the best possible local development team for his project, and he has listened to neighborhood concerns. Typical of everything Warren does, this will be a project of the highest design and construction standards, one of which all Ithacans will be proud.

As council members, as mayor, as volunteer members of the planning board and board of zoning appeals, we expect you to have the courage to lead and to make decisions for the greater good of Ithaca — its residents and its businesses. You, better than any of us, see the big picture of economic development and understand what is needed to keep downtown economically viable.

As neighbors, remember that your house was once farmland. Someone had the vision to develop East Hill as a residential neighborhood serving the community with housing. Your houses sit well aloft this proposed downtown building. The proposed Warren project on the Challenge site is a perfect blend of residential and commercial in a transition zone between East Hill residential and downtown commercial. We have an able developer, a beautiful design; we should do this project!

Travis is chairman of the Business Retention and Development Committee of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. He and his wife, Carol, are the owners and developers of the Gateway Plaza project across the street from the Challenge site.


Here's the link: http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20110215/VIEWPOINTS02/102150308/Challenge-plan-would-help-keep-city-s-downtown-businesses-viable?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Viewpoints
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  #1316  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2011, 11:49 PM
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Sorry for the delay in posting lately. I plan to make up for lost time, so don't get bored with all the articles coming at you.

Article from the Ithaca Times regarding Collegetown zoning. BTW, Svante Myrick is running for Mayor. I believe he's only about 24 years old.

Parking requirements weighed for Collegetown development projects
Joseph Murtagh
Reporter

At last Wednesday's meeting of the City of Ithaca's Planning and Economic Development Committee the public learned more about the city's plans to create a payment in lieu of parking option for developers in Collegetown.

The proposal comes out of the Collegetown plan that was endorsed by Common Council in August 2009, and it's the result of the work of two working groups, the Collegetown Transportation Working Group and the Collegetown Zoning Working Group. Under the proposal, property owners in the Collegetown Parking Overlay Zone, an area that incorporates the heart of Collegetown, would be able to make a cash payment in lieu of providing all or some of a property's required off-street parking. The payments would then be used to fund transportation improvements that benefit Collegetown, said Alderman Svante Myrick, who represents the 4th Ward on Common Council.

"When building a home or an apartment, the City of Ithaca mandates one parking spot be created for every two units," said Myrick. "So if you're building an apartment building with 20 units, you must provide 10 parking spots. The payment in lieu will now give folks in Collegtown an option. They can opt to pay into a fund dedicated to transportation improvements in Collegetown rather than build a spot."

Parking is an expensive thing to create and maintain. The cost for structured parking in Collegetown is between $20,000-$25,000 per space (although that figure is spread out over the lifetime of a parking space and wouldn't have to be paid upfront). In determining the fee to use for the payment in lieu of parking system, the City Planning Department arrived at a figure of 50 percent of the cost to construct and maintain structured parking over 15 years Ð roughly $10,000 per space.

The payment in lieu plan is not meant to mandate but to provide options, said Myrick.

"What's important here is that this is truly an option. Each person will have to decide, based on the economics of the site and the commitment to sustainable transportation, which option to go with," said Myrick. "They can build a 20-unit apartment, build five spaces and pay $50,000. Or they could build eight spaces and pay $20,000. They may decide to build all 10 parking spaces."

Myrick also said that a Residential Parking Permit System that has worked for years could be extended to streets not currently protected by it to limit the parking impact to residential neighborhoods adjacent to Collegetown. Demand for parking in Collegetown is elastic, he explained, and the city's policies should reflect that.

"When met with constraints, like increased price or decreased availability, people bring fewer cars to the area," said Myrick. "This is especially true of students. First year students at Cornell bring their cars in very low numbers. Once they move to Collegetown where parking is more easily available they bring their cars from home. If parking becomes less available and other modes of transportation more appealing, thanks to the fund we've created, we believe that students will bring fewer cars."

Not all Collegetown residents are thrilled about the payment in lieu of parking system, however. According to property owner Josh Lower, the payment in lieu option benefits larger developers at the expense of smaller property owners.

"If Ithaca wants to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and promote better design, the current proposed in-lieu fee is not the solution. It acts like a tax on small property owners, who has no choice but to pay the fee. If the city insists on an in-lieu fee, it should be mandatory for all projects, regardless of how big or small, with the funds used to re-balance an out of balance mobility system in favor of pedestrians and transport modes consistent with the city's vision of a walkable community."


Here's the link:
http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...007&TM=66874.9
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  #1317  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2011, 11:57 PM
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An Article regarding the possibility of making Aurora Street 2-way again in downtown. From the Ithaca Journal:


The City of Ithaca is considering modifying traffic patterns on the one-way portions of Aurora Street. / SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo


2-way traffic option studied for Ithaca's Aurora St.
Board of Public Works member sees benefits


Written by
Danielle Winterton

The Ithaca city Board of Public Works is revisiting the possibility of converting Aurora Street to two-way traffic and has scheduled discussion on it for Wednesday's meeting.

The issue was brought to the table by Commissioner Govind Acharya. While the board has previously discussed and explored the initiative, no decisions were made to proceed.

Acharya said the conversion will contribute to the city's effort to create streets that are equally friendly to bikes, cars and pedestrians.

"The city is working on it slowly, but it's still tilted in the direction of cars. A number of communities have found, however, that by converting one-way streets to two-way, they've actually managed to decrease traffic."

Among these communities were Vancouver, Wash., and Copenhagen, Denmark, according to articles Acharya cited.

"It should be based around a concept of 'complete streets,' which allows smooth automobile traffic flow while also giving safe options for non-car users," he added.

Another benefit would be to keep South Hill traffic tethered to downtown, he said.

With work planned for Clinton Street, access to South Hill will be cut off from the rest of the city, Acharya said.

"The main route will be a circuitous route around the Commons," he said. "Converting Aurora Street to two-way will ease some of that traffic. It's not a panacea as traffic will increase in other parts of the city, but I think it's unfair for South Hill to have to repeatedly face traffic burdens."

"This is an idea that's recently emerged," said Gary Ferguson, executive director of Downtown Ithaca Partnership. "I think in general the reaction of downtown would be if we can do it without losing sidewalk or without losing amenities, that would make some sense. It's something we're interested in having people explore."

Ferguson recalled that a previous conversion effort was stymied because too much sidewalk space would be lost. "But times are different," Ferguson said, "and it very well could work this time. It will be interesting to see how this can come together."

A January memo written by City Transportation Engineer Tim Logue indicated that in July 2006, the board voted to rescind a resolution to convert Aurora to two-way traffic because "staff was fairly neutral about making it two-way and the BPW didn't see the benefits outweighing the costs."



Here's the link, and there's a bunch of "interesting" comments:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...a-s-Aurora-St-
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  #1318  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 12:19 AM
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Three articles regarding the Seneca Way proposal downtown. The first 2 are from the Ithaca Journal, the last one is from The Ithaca Times.


Board meets about Seneca Way:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...Local%20News|s


Board Waives Environmental Report:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...ca-Way-project



Alterations to original plan for Seneca Way:

http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...53&TM=55110.31


It seems like some Ithacans fight development tooth and nail.
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Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 1:06 AM
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Article about work being done on Cascadilla gorge which trails from Collegetown to downtown. I spent many hours in this gorge as a kid.

From the Ithaca Times.


Todd Bittner, director of natural areas for Cornell Plantations, talks about the Cascadilla gorge trail at its Fall Creek entrance. (Photo by Rachel Philipson)



This rendering shows the proposed staircase renovation on the Cascadilla gorge trail under the Stewart Avenue bridge. It was created by Joon Seol, a graduate student in Cornell's Department of Landscape Architecture working as a student intern on the project. (Image Provided)



Cascadilla gorge trail reconstruction project on schedule
Joseph Murtagh
Reporter

Cascadilla gorge is getting a facelift.

The well-known Ithaca hotspot, which links the Fall Creek neighborhood with Cornell University via a scenic gorge trail, had fallen into disrepair and was in need of reconstruction, said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas for Cornell Plantations.

"By 2008, the condition of the trail had deteriorated so much and it had become so unsafe that it had to be closed for public safety concerns," said Bittner, who oversees 4,000 acres of natural areas for Cornell Plantations. "So we did a full assessment to gauge the level of effort necessary to make it safe, and we realized we needed to do a full reconstruction effort instead of just incremental repairs."

The gorge has been in Cornell's possession since 1910, when it was donated to the university by Robert Treman to be used as a park for the benefit of the Cornell and Ithaca communities. One of the goals in reconstructing the gorge, said Bittner, was to preserve its historical character. New railings and chains were chosen based on an architectural style that was popular a century ago, and the entrance will feature an original plaque and a handmade gate constructed by local artisan Durand Van Doren. The idea is to create an iconic postcard entryway that will fit seamlessly into the landscape and evoke the gorge's historical origins, said Bittner.

"We're really going for the historic look," said Bittner. "If it looks like it's always been here, we've met our goal."

The project has received the approval of the City Planning Board, as well as the necessary permits from the state and federal authorities, said Bittner. Funding for the project has come from Cornell, which has spent in excess of $1.2 million to see the gorge reconstructed. Work on the gorge began in the fall of 2009, and the lower section was reopened in October of 2010. Phase two of the construction project, which includes the section of the gorge that runs between the Stewart Avenue and College Avenue bridges, will begin as soon as conditions allow this spring. The goal, said Bittner, is to have the entire trail opened by mid to late October of this year.

Much of the reconstruction is necessary because of wear and tear to the gorge that occurs throughout the year, said Bittner. The gorge is getting wider and deeper over time, and the water cuts into and erodes the rock walls, creating public safety issues.

"This is a very dynamic system with lots of impact to the trail," said Bittner. "Rocks and trees come howling down the gorge during high water events and repeatedly damage the trail. People don't realize it, because we don't let them into the gorge during the winter."

Reconstruction is also necessary to fix sections of the trail that have been damaged by storm water run-off from impervious surfaces above the gorge, said Bittner. In one instance, water was running down and destroying a staircase, so the designers built a chute and put in a solid slab of stone to funnel the water underneath the trail and into the gorge.

One of the biggest changes will occur halfway up the trail, where an entirely new staircase will be built for a section of the trail that continually had water cascading over it from above. Currently, the trail curves around the rock face of the gorge, and during the winter, it's completely buried under a massive column of ice. The new staircase will pull away from the rock cliff and be built at a straight angle to the trail, said Bittner.

"During the winter, the ice here creates a glacier, and the weight of the ice could destroy the staircase," said Bittner. "There was worry too that a big chunk of rock could fall and harm people passing by, so what we're proposing to do is pull that staircase away from the dangerous rock face and build a new staircase that will come straight instead of curving around the cliff."


Here's the link:
http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...50&TM=68204.74
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Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 1:13 AM
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Some zoning plans for two Ithaca neighborhoods. From the Ithaca Journal.


Ithaca zoning proposals meet skepticism
Collegetown, waterfront plans questioned


Written by
Liz Lawyer
elawyer@gannett.com

The City of Ithaca Planning and Economic Development Committee has made progress on the city's Collegetown Urban Plan and changes to waterfront zoning.

The committee on Wednesday made itself the lead agency on the Urban Plan and held three public hearings -- on the Collegetown Urban Plan, changes to waterfront zoning along Cayuga Inlet, and on the 2011 Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency Action Plan and Housing and Urban Development Entitlement Program.

About 25 people attended, with most of them speaking on the Urban Plan.

Collegetown planSeveral elements of the Collegetown plan were discussed Wednesday, including rezoning of certain areas, establishment of an overlay height incentive district, a change to a parking overlay zone, and a new design review ordinance. Residents and business owners in Collegetown said they needed more time to absorb the implications.

College Avenue resident Neil Golder said, "Speaking ... from the perspective of someone who has lived on College Avenue for 39 years, having gotten the letter three weeks ago, I feel there hasn't been enough time to really study it. It seems complex and far-reaching in its impact."I'm worried about severe negative impact on the neighborhood, an increase in traffic congestion, and I'm worried about the aesthetic consequences," he said.

Longtime Collegetown resident and rental proprietor Anna Steel asked the committee to delay moving forward with the plan until residents could "put together an adequate argument."

Other concerns included resident Josh Lower's statement that an amendment to an existing parking overlay zone would help solve the parking problem in Collegetown, but would cause longer-term issues. Under the proposed ordinance, a property owner within the parking overlay zone could make a payment of $10,000 per space in lieu of providing all or some of the property's required off-street parking.

"I believe the plan exposes the high cost of parking but will continue undermining (the development) of low-impact transportation," Lower said.

Committee members discussed waiting on taking any action on the plan to give Collegetown residents time to review it.

Waterfront changesThe committee is proposing a new waterfront zoning district to include Inlet Island and the east side of Cayuga Inlet. Among the goals are maintaining public waterfront access, creating a dense area on the water, increasing property values, and protecting views to and from the waterfront.

Several business owners expressed concern with the changes, including a requirement that new buildings have a minimum of three stories and a maximum of five, except for buildings used for water-dependent activities; that property along the inlet have a 15-foot setback; and that the first 10 feet of any building along the inlet be only two or three stories high.

Paul Carubia, who owns properties along Taughannock Boulevard, said the three-story minimum on new construction puts a burden on builders in the area, especially with narrow lots along the inlet, made even narrower by the 15-foot setback.

"I'm looking at people who have to put lots together to make buildings longer rather than deeper," Carubia said. "It will probably make development harder."

Another property owner in the area, Bruce Lane, said he favors waterfront development but wondered about justification of the height rules. Requiring more stories would be an economic hardship, he said.

The committee will discuss the waterfront zoning district at its April meeting.

Here's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...t|Local%20News
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