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  #1321  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 6:31 PM
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Some decent local economic news from the Ithaca Journal.


Tompkins County Economic Index: County economy improves in February
6:20 PM, Apr. 1, 2011

The Ithaca College Index of Economic Activity in Tompkins County advanced 0.73 percent in February to a level 157.47 from a revised mark of 156.33 in January.

Building permits and home sales showed strength, while air traffic declined modestly. Employment, retail sales, and help wanted advertising held steady. Compared to February 2010, economic activity was up 2.27 percent.

The county economy added 100 jobs in February to bring total employment to 65,100 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate fell to 6 percent compared to 6.3 percent a year earlier. The unemployment rate in New York State was 8.7 percent and 9.5 percent across the nation.

Retail sales were just barely higher in February than January on a seasonally adjusted basis. However, retail sales this February were 6.12 percent higher than last. Look for retail sales to increase by 10 percent in 2011.

The number of passengers boarding and deplaning at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport was 6.24 percent higher in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. Compared to February 2010, air traffic was up 10.8 percent.

Residential building permits issued in Tompkins County vaulted 93.1 percent in February. Building permits have a tendency to swing widely from month to month. Compared to February 2010, building permits were off 32.7 percent.

County realtors sold 71 homes in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. This amounts to a gain of 5.5 percent over last month. Compared to January 2010, homes sales were up 23.1 percent. However, sales prices softened. The average sales price of a home in Tompkins County was $174,800 compared with $191,700 a year ago. The median sales price was $143,500 compared with $155,300 a year ago.

Help wanted advertising increased 6.29 percent in February. Compared to February 2010, help wanted advertising was up 13.89 percent. These increases are evidence of an improving labor market.

The Tompkins County Economic Index appears monthly in The Ithaca Journal. Elia Kacapyr is professor and chairman of the Department of Economics at Ithaca College.


Here's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...xt|FRONTPAGE|p
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  #1322  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 6:43 PM
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Some other good economic news for the area:

From the Ithaca Journal.

Transonic expansion should add 50 jobs in the next 3 years
Home-grown health device company enlarges manufacturing capacity

Written by
Rachel Stern


Transonic Systems founder Cornelis Drost, left, and Chief Operating Officer Bruce Kilmartin talk to the assembled employees Wednesday morning at the groundbreaking for their new building on Dutch Mill Road in the Town of Lansing. / SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo

LANSING -- Gold shovels collected mounds of mud and snow Wednesday morning as Transonic Systems Inc. broke ground for a 30,000 square-foot expansion.

As snow flurries came down, Transonic employees, project builders and architects, and Tompkins County Area Development representatives gathered outside the building entrance to watch the ceremony. Four Caterpillar machines sat on a large open space that will be morphed into a one-story building used primarily for manufacturing, said Bruce Kilmartin, chief operating officer of the company.

"This has been a dream of mine for about 10 years," he said. "We are proud to be able to construct this new facility in the Town of Lansing because with the economic situation we presently have, we are lucky to be able to build."

The new facility, to be used primarily for manufacturing, is expected to generate about 50 additional jobs over the next three years, he said. In five years, Kilmartin said he hopes to have the new 100-spot parking lot filled to capacity. Jobs will be in engineering, marketing, sales and manufacturing, he said.

Site and preparation work is almost complete and the company is waiting on sewer permits from the Town of Lansing. After those arrive in the next week or so, Kilmartin said, the building will start. The project should be complete around Oct. 28.

The expansion will cost more than $4 million, Kilmartin said. A strong worldwide presence, a new sewer system and frugal spending enabled Transonic to expand during this economic climate, he said.

There was a time, however, when expansion seemed bleak.

Without a new sewer system, the company would not have been able to expand, said Kilmartin. With help from Tompkins County Area Development and the Town of Lansing, a $400,000 grant was secured from Empire State Development to build a municipal sewer line along Warren Road.

"There was no way we could have expanded without the sewer system," Kilmartin said. "I cannot say enough about the local government's help."

The community is just as grateful for Transonic, said Heather Filiberto, director of economic development services at TCAD.

"It is businesses like Transonic that create quality jobs in our community," she said. "This is a big step in making sure they are a job creator in our community for the next 25 years and beyond."

Transonic manufactures blood flow measurement devices. The devices can be used in surgery and to measure cardiac output. The company was founded at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine 27 years ago by its present owner, engineer Cornelis Drost.

The people Transonic helps -- including Kilmartin, who had triple bypass surgery in 2004 using equipment from the company -- is another reason why the expansion is so important, said Tompkins County Legislator Pat Pryor, D-Lansing.

"It is important to point out another group of beneficiaries of Transonic's business development -- the thousands of patients over the years that have been given a better medical prognosis because of the devices developed by Transonic," she said.

The company employs 125 people locally and an additional 25 people worldwide with subsidiaries in Maastricht, the Netherlands and Taipei, Taiwan. Thanks to that worldwide presence, Transonic is able to bring in about $20 million in annual sales, Kilmartin said.

And that same presence made building an expansion possible, despite the tough economic times, he added.

"We have really been able to weather the downturn well," he said. "The worldwide presence bolsters profitability. If one area is down, another is up."


Here's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...text|FRONTPAGE


And another Ithaca Journal article:

BorgWarner project gets state jobs grant
9:17 PM, Mar. 23, 2011

BorgWarner Morse TEC Inc. in Tompkins County received a $592,540 grant from the Empire State Development Corp. to support the transfer work from an out-of-state plant to New York.

Last November, BorgWarner Morse TEC relocated the Variable Cam Timing product line from a plant in Oklahoma.

A grant of up to $459,540 was awarded to the company for a portion of the cost of the purchase of machinery and equipment, and an additional $133,000 was awarded for a portion of the cost of training.

The project will allow the company to retain 1,329 jobs and create 51 jobs in New York, according to Empire State Development. The total project cost is $62.7 million.

Empire State Development's Board of Directors approved $12.34 million in grants Wednesday to support the creation of 838 jobs and retain 1,862 jobs in the state.

BorgWarner Morse TEC Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the publicly traded BorgWarner Inc., which manufactures automotive chain systems for engine timing and power transmission and torque transfer.


Her's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...xt|FRONTPAGE|p

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  #1323  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2011, 6:47 PM
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Downtown got some good news as well. From the Ithaca Journal:

Downtown Ithaca to hold 3 ribbon cutting ceremonies March 24
9:31 AM, Mar. 23, 2011

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and the City of Ithaca will welcome one new business and two re-located businesses to downtown Ithaca with ribbon cuttings scheduled at each location beginning at noon on Thursday, March 24 with a ceremony at Culture Shock, 109 N. Cayuga St., followed by Sheldon Hill at 128 The Commons and ending with the Big Time Barber Shop at 208 The Commons.

Culture Shock is a new addition to Ithaca's dining options featuring "live cultured food" including tart frozen yogurt and kambucha. General manager Marian Flaxman, the daughter of Cornellians, attended the Cornell Hotel School and left to become a health counselor. She decided that Ithaca should have a healthy place to eat that is also fun. Culture Shock is also 100 percent gluten free.

Sheldon Hill has re-located from South Cayuga Street to the space next to Petrune, newly restored after the October fire. Owner Stacy Payette has owned Sheldon Hill's parent company, the Ithaca Antique Center since 2005 and is delighted to have a downtown antiques boutique to compliment the larger store. Sheldon Hill sells unique vintage jewelry and antiques.

The Big Time Barber Shop moved to its current ground-floor location from a much smaller second floor space in the same building at 208 the Commons. Employing three barbers and two apprentices, the new expanded space has a large waiting area where everyone is encouraged to come for conversation and mentoring. Joe Knight, the owner has been a barber downtown since 1995.


Here's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...ting-ceremonie
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  #1324  
Old Posted Apr 4, 2011, 8:41 PM
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Thankfully Ithaca/Tompkins County didn't follow the Upstate trend for population loss. Article from the Cornell Daily Sun:


Tompkins County Grows 5 Percent, Adds 5,000 Residents Over 10 Years
Topics: Tompkins County, collegetown, census
2010 U.S. Census shows decline for other N.Y. State counties

April 4, 2011
By Max Schindler
While Tompkins County remained an island of growth — adding 5,000 people — the neighboring counties, Cayuga, Schuyler, Chemung and Tioga saw sharp decreases in size. Seventeen upstate N.Y. counties reported losing residents.

According to the new census, 101,564 people live in Tompkins County. Of that, an estimated 30,000 students attend Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College. The census also reported that Asian American and multiracial populations grew faster than the white population in the area and now make up more than 20 percent of the county.

The City of Ithaca grew by 2.5 percent to a total of 30,014 residents, while the Town of Ithaca increased almost 10 percent to 19,930 people.

Collegetown especially swelled in the past decade — increasing by 22 percent, or 1,000 additional residents — to a total of 5,600 people.

Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey ’89 (D-District 1) attributed the sharp rise in the neighborhood’s population to recent construction projects.

“Nobody was surprised that Collegetown increased due to all the development and the apartments that have been built in the past 10 to 15 years,” Mackesey said.

Collegetown’s dramatic population growth has strained some public services offered by the municipality, Ithaca officials said, including a dearth of parking.

Mackesey acknowledged that Ithaca has gradually responded to the increased demand.

“That is an area where the demand for [TCAT] bus service has increased over the past 10 years — we probably have greater bus service to that area,” Mackesey said.

The neighborhood has experienced growth particularly along the corridor between Dryden Road and College Avenue, the census reported.

Central Collegetown is the densest neighborhood in upstate New York, with a population density ratio of 33,000 residents per square mile, according to the census data.

The 2010 census showed that most upstate metropolitan areas shrunk dramatically in the past decade, with Buffalo losing 10.7 percent, Rochester losing 4.2 percent and Syracuse losing 1.5 percent of their residents.

Still, Tompkins County has sustained population growth due to its major educational and research employers, according to Tompkins County Legislator Michael Lane (D-14th District).

Lane said that, although Tompkins County has the lowest unemployment rate out of any New York county, many area residents face economic difficulties.

“The state looks at our unemployment numbers and they think we’re doing wonderfully,” Lane said. But Tompkins County “has a lot of underemployed people — a lot of people working two or three jobs to try to make ends meet,” Lane said.

He also mentioned that Cornell contributed to the county’s problems with its administrative streamlining program, including its nine percent workforce reduction.

“Cornell went through a period of laying off and early retirement for a lot of employees,” Lane said.

Tompkins County had an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, in January, below New York State’s 8.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

“We have a more stable economy in Tompkins County in general,” Tompkins County legislator Mackesey said.

“I also think that we have a county and community here that is attractive and offers things to people — a kind of rural environment with an urban texture,” she said. “It’s why we have continued to grow and other counties have declined.”

According to the 2010 Census, New York State grew by 2.1 percent to 19.4 million people, the third most populous state in the country. The U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent. Due to the lower growth, New York is expected to lose two congressional seats in the nationwide redistricting, according to the census.


Here's the link:
http://www.cornelldailysun.com/secti...-over-10-years
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  #1325  
Old Posted Apr 7, 2011, 11:51 PM
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Downtown Alliance setting new 10 year vision plan for downtown:
From the Ithaca Journal


Goals for downtown Ithaca set for the next decade
Improved transit, new Commons, more apartments among targets for Downtown Ithaca Alliance


Written by
Liz Lawyer


The Downtown Ithaca Alliance's vision of downtown in the year 2020 includes a stronger "spine-and-spoke" transit system, a rebuilt Commons and 1,500 new residential units.

Besides those three main goals for the coming decade, the Downtown Ithaca 2020 Strategic Plan includes dozens of smaller targets, like increasing downtown's appeal as a location for conferences and meetings or making sure downtown is a comfortable place for senior citizens to live and visit.

The DIA's first 10-year strategic plan ended in 2010, said Executive Director Gary Ferguson. The 90-page plan for the 2010s has a new set of ideas. Ferguson hopes it will encourage sustainable growth, control urban sprawl, maintain retail and commercial activity, and encourage diversity.

The 2020 Strategic Plan was drawn from surveys, outreach meetings with community groups and stakeholders, public meetings and existing development plans. It was developed with an eye toward 11 fundamental concepts, including mixed-use projects, reducing automotive uses, and improving transitions at neighborhood edges.

"There's no such thing as a silver bullet for a community," Ferguson said. "Like a casino -- that's an example of a silver bullet. Rarely does that work."

Ferguson said an estimated 4,000 new units of housing will be required in Tompkins County to keep up with population growth. By establishing a goal to have 1,500 of those in the downtown area, Ithaca can prevent urban sprawl and encourage less driving, among other sustainable practices.

"But if those were built on the periphery of the community, that's not a very strong, bold statement about our dedication to green and sustainable principles," he said.

Other aspects of the plan call for capital improvements to The Commons and other downtown areas, such as parking garages. With financial woes at every level of government and in the private sector, funds for infrastructure improvements are low. But Ferguson says there will never be an ideal time to make repairs.

"We have to deal with the urban core whatever the fiscal environment is," he said. "Even in tough times, one has to be willing to invest in the future. You may have to change the way you do business, but you still have to do business."

The hundreds of specific goals in the plan include:

* Adding two more hotels to downtown.

* Exploring the concept of a joint City of Ithaca/Tompkins county administration building.

* Providing free Wi-Fi on The Commons.

* Creating a Downtown Residents Council to act as a liaison between the city, DIA and downtown inhabitants.


Here's The link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...et-next-decade
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  #1326  
Old Posted Apr 8, 2011, 12:00 AM
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Big plans for Collegetown. From the Cornell Daily Sun:


Collegetown Plans Provide New Development Guidelines
Initiatives aim to densify core and protect peripheral neighborhoods

April 6, 2011
By Liz Camuti


In an attempt to increase population density in the core of Collegetown while protecting the character and aesthetic quality of single-family homes in surrounding residential neighborhoods, the City of Ithaca has put forth four proposals for future development.

The initiatives, based on a vision described in the 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan & Conceptual Design Guidelines, will likely be voted on by Common Council May 4. Although varied, the proposals seek to set new building and density guidelines “to create a diverse, commercially viable, mix-use community,” as stated in the 2007 Collegetown Vision Statement.

According to Alderperson Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd Ward), the proposed changes “will encourage good quality redevelopment options.”

The plan also has the potential to increase the amount of housing for students, while adding stability to the city as a whole, McCollister said.

“Collegetown used to be more single-family housing. When it became all students, it drove out neighborhood character,” McCollister said. “By focusing development more towards the core, [the proposals] will take pressure off places like Delaware Ave. and single-family housing in general.”

Collegetown Form-Based Codes

One proposal aims to implement the city’s first use of a “form-based code” to regulate development according to the physical form of new buildings.

Unlike conventional zoning, which is focused on controlling development through more abstract parameters such as height limits or dwellings per acre, under the form-based code, buildings within the core of Collegetown and in the peripheral neighborhoods will have to comply with certain requirements regarding the form of buildings, according to chairman of the Planning and Development Board John Schroeder ’74, who is also the production manager of The Sun.

“The form-based code means we will be more focused on what buildings are supposed to look like, in accordance with recommendations set forth in the 2009 plan,” he said.

According to comments sent to the Common Council from the board, when the city recently rezoned other areas throughout Ithaca to protect neighborhood character, the Collegetown area was deliberately excluded from this rezoning because planning for the form-based districts in Collegetown was already underway.

Board members said they believed these proposed form-based districts will achieve similar goals in nearby neighborhoods.

Under the proposal, new buildings in the peripheral neighborhoods will be required to have certain aesthetic qualities, such as a gabled roof and a front porch in the areas where this reflects the existing predominant architectural character.

“Right now, there are areas close to the single-family neighborhoods where you could demolish a traditional Ithaca single-family house, join a couple lots together and build a large box,” Schroeder said. “But under the new proposed zoning, there is less of an incentive to do this. If a building burns down, what’s built will look like it belongs there. At the same time, maximum allowable building heights will be increased in key areas on College [Avenue] and upper Linden Avenue to increase the development opportunities there.”

McCollister also emphasized the board members’ desire for more attractive buildings in both the core and the periphery of Collegetown.

“We want to encourage developments that look good architecturally, so that they harmoniously transition into neighborhood areas with single-family housing,” McCollister said.

Height Incentives for New Development

The city also aims to establish a “height incentive district” in the core of Collegetown. In exchange for including non-student uses on at least one story — such as hotel or office space — developers would be allowed to build to a maximum 84-feet — 24-feet higher than the current maximum, McCollister said.

The height incentive district will encourage redevelopment of residential buildings while diversifying their uses to provide year-round customers for College­town stores and restaurants, Schroeder said.

Both Schroeder and Mary Tomlan, a former Common Council member, said adding non-student housing would help the year-round vibrancy of Collegetown, which they said is often diminished when students are out of town.

“It would better for the city if Collegetown were more active when classes aren’t in session,” Schroeder said. “Right now, you can walk down College Avenue in January and every last store and restaurant is closed — it’s like a ghost town.”

Tomlan said incentives for mixed use development would particularly benefit the 200 block of Dryden Road, where most buildings are used primarily for student housing.

“I hope that [the proposal] will provide some necessary greater diversity of function, and I think we’ll have to see how that works,” she said.

Amendments to the Collegetown Parking Overlay Zone

The third proposal aims to reduce the need for cars and to create a more bike-friendly, public transportation-oriented environment, McCollister said.

To improve the transportation system, the board is proposing to establish a fund dedicated to transportation improvements. Developers would be able to pay into the fund in lieu of providing parking for their tenants.

The money put into the fund will go toward improvements such as widening sidewalks and creating off-site parking areas, Schroeder said.

“[This proposal] will encourage development on sites that are currently under-utilized, such as parking lots,” Schroeder said. “It’s another discrete way of encouraging more density in the center.”

Tomlan, however, said that she was skeptical of how well the new parking and transportation proposal will work.

“I’m not sure how the parking components will work in terms of how many property owners will choose to pay in to the fund rather than provide parking to their tenants and how many of the tenants will choose to go the route of carshare and bus passes,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll know until we have that in our experience.”

New Design Review Ordinance

Although there are currently no design standards for new buildings constructed in Collegetown, the fourth proposal aims to fold the current Design Review Board into the Planning Board in order to implement design standards to be written in the near future, Schroeder said.

A major development concern cited in the 2009 plan was the construction of “new structures that are dramatically non-contextual with the existing urban fabric … and damaging to the coherence and aesthetic character of individual neighborhoods.”

According to the Planning Board’s comments, a consultant will be preparing design standards for Collegetown in the upcoming months. The language of the proposed ordinance will then be reviewed by the board once the consultant’s work has been completed.

“The ultimate goal is to improve the aesthetic standard of Collegetown’s urban form,” McCollister said.

Schroeder noted that all four initiatives are tightly interrelated.

“We want to have a binding design review to make sure new buildings have higher quality of design, make it easier for developers to develop their sites, provide better transportation facilities, encourage increased development in the center, and discourage development on the periphery,” he said.

According to the Planning Board’s comments, it is recognized that it is unlikely that any of the proposals will be perfect, and that they will all need “attention, monitoring and potential revision over time.” However, board members also noted that these interrelated proposals set forth positive new ideas and are a major step forward for the city.

“I am hopeful that this increased density will relieve some of the pressure on the surrounding area,” Tomlan said. “I think it will be up to zoning enforcement to make sure that this indeed is the case.”
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  #1327  
Old Posted Apr 8, 2011, 9:37 PM
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Not exatly helping to densify the city, but it is close to Ithaca College. From the Ithaca Journal:


New Ithaca South Hill shopping center planned
Fall opening targeted at E. King Road site

5:55 PM, Apr. 7, 2011
Written by
Rachel Stern

Ithaca's South Hill will soon have a new shopping center.

College Crossings will contain retail, commercial and office space, said project builder Evan Monkemeyer of Ithaca Estates Realty LLC. Located at 1061 Danby Road, the building will be located on the corner of East King Road and Route 96B. Monkemeyer said he hopes the center will open in the fall.

"We are at the stage where we have all the governmental approvals in place and we are now trying to get 50 to 60 percent of the real estate preleased," he said.

There will be eight spaces available to rent and two have been pre-leased, he added. If two or three more spaces get rented, construction will start in the spring and the center would be up and running by the fall, Monkemeyer said.

College Crossings will have two entrances to the property off Route 96B and East King Road. There also will be an 8-foot-wide pedestrian walking trail to connect College Crossings with Ithaca College and College Circle Apartments.

The first floor will contain a bank, along with retail and food establishments including a bicycle shop, bagel and coffee shop and a beauty shop, Monkemeyer said. The second floor will be used for offices. The building, along with the surrounding grounds, will have wireless internet service, he said.

For now, the focus is just getting the spaces preleased, Monkemeyer said.

"The biggest nut to crack is the recession period," he said. "We need to get tenants to pre-lease a few more properties before we can start building."


Here's the link (some good comments too, btw is that you vis?):

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...text|FRONTPAGE
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  #1328  
Old Posted Apr 8, 2011, 10:06 PM
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Kind of surprised by the supportive tone of this Ithaca Times editorial. Reference to Seneca Way project:


For The Good Of The City

If you've been following the local news over the last few months, you'll know that developer Bryan Warren, of Warren Real Estate fame, has plans to build a five-story, mixed-use building on the former Challenge Industries site. If you're the sort of immensely entertaining person who makes it a habit to study and understand city zoning charts, you might even know that the Challenge Industry parcel is zoned "B-4 commercial," which basically means that it's against the law to build a building above four stories.

You might also know that Bryan Warren has sought a height variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals to build a building that's 17-feet higher than what the law allows, since costs for construction on the site are exceedingly high and Warren claims this is the only way to make the building profitable. And you might know that a lot of neighbors in the area are frankly pretty upset about this.

It's understandable that they are upset. The East Hill neighborhood is a historic district, and it's seen a remarkable transformation in recent years, as rental properties have shifted over to single-family dwellings. Residents along East Seneca Street have poured untold dollars into their properties and have had to abide by the area's strict zoning regulations. Now along comes this developer who seems to be breaking rules left and right, proposing to erect this large, ultra-modern building right next door in a space where it doesn't quite fit the zoning footprint, and it all seems to be so drastically unfair, because all the neighbors ever wanted was not to stare at cement, and here they're being publicly criticized of destroying the environment by the founder of EcoVillage, and blogger Matt Yglesias is accusing them of NIMBYism to his 18,000 followers on Twitter.

There are a couple of things to say about this. The first is that we are actually dealing in this case with two neighborhoods, not one, since downtown is a neighborhood too, with its own unique demands and interests. This is the not an instance of the East Hill neighborhood being attacked by some evil hive of young professionals and empty nesters; this is an instance of two city neighborhoods with very different kinds of populations struggling to resolve a conflict. And second, Bryan Warren hasn't broken any rules. The city has engaged in no spot-zoning. No one has been paid off. The developer has presented a plan, has applied for a variance, and is doing his best to work with the neighbors, who insist that they aren't against development in general.

And what's more, the developer has made serious concessions, as was made evident at last Tuesday's meeting of the Planning Board, where Warren and his team unveiled a proposal to remove a large section of the top floor off of the rear of the building to minimize the impact to the neighbors along East Seneca Street. These are not superficial changes that the developers have made. This was not a cheap project to begin with, and it's dependent on bank financing, which means the developers are taking a real risk in making these alterations.

In short, this was a good faith effort by the developers to reach a compromise with the neighbors. It was wrong for the city to try to sneak in a zoning change for this parcel as it did last December, which would have given the developers the freedom to build the height they wanted, the neighbors be damned, but that's not what's happening here. The developers put forth a proposal; the neighbors expressed their concerns; the developers went back to the drawing board and made some significant changes.

The handful of citizens in this city whose odd and ridiculous fate it is to sit through hours and hours of public meetings on a weekly basis have heard many reasons given for why the Seneca Way project must move forward. We have heard that there is a demand for quality housing in the City of Ithaca. We have heard talk of "density," and how the city needs more of it. We have been warned of gas stations and brain drain and suburban sprawl and chaos in Libya.

To these dire warnings we might add another: thanks to a bleak fiscal environment, the City of Ithaca can no longer depend on the money it gets from the state of New York to pay for programs that keep local youth employed and out of jail. It costs just $7,000 a year to fund the Paul Schreurs Program at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, which has had a 100 percent success rate over the last three years in getting at-risk kids into college, but funding for that program is due to be cut in the Governor's budget.

But the city might be in a position to pick up the tab, if it were to expand its tax base. And the way we do that is by supporting economic development like the Seneca Way project, which will add roughly $150,000 a year to the city's tax rolls. Nor is the Seneca Way project an isolated case. The Downtown Alliance has set an awesomely ambitious goal of creating 1,500 units of new housing in downtown Ithaca by 2020. Times are tough, and they call for fiscal prudence, but we as a city we should be supportive of this new development, so that we can afford to be generous again 15 years from now.

Of course, this isn't a license to accept any and all development that comes along; the city must be smart about its economic growth, pursuing a development strategy that respects the cultural and aesthetic dignity of our historic homes and neighborhoods, while understanding that the future of our city depends on our willingness to make bold decisions in favor of economic development that will expand the tax base and ease the tax burden for us all.


Here's the link:

http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?...57&TM=65101.92
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2011, 9:42 PM
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An old factory building sitting empty, and ready for a new life. Actually, my brother use to work there, but got laid off when the company moved the workforce out of Ithaca (consolidation). That's the second time it's happened to him. The idea of redevelopment might be a tough sale to any potential investors.

From The Ithaca Journal:


The unused Emerson Power Transmission building sits above much of the Ithaca's South Hill neighborhood straddling the city and town lines. Local officials and interested parties are thinking about redeveloping the site. / SIMON WHEELER / STAFF PHOTO


Ithaca South Hill site faces pollution, zoning hurdles
Former Emerson facility needs buyer
11:16 PM, Apr. 10, 2011

ITHACA -- Production ended at the Emerson Power Transmission plant on Ithaca's South Hill in December and the company auctioned off most of its remaining equipment in February, leaving behind a vacant 368,000-square-foot building, a 94-acre parcel overlooking Ithaca, and a lot of questions about the site's future.

Tompkins County Assessment Director Jay Franklin said many ideas have surfaced for the site of the former machine parts manufacturer, but it's too early to tell what has potential and what's just talk.

"I have heard so many different ideas, from a mini South Hill Business Campus to apartments and condos," Franklin said. "It's hard to filter through what might be rumors from what might be somebody's concrete plans."

South Hill Business Campus, just up the hill on Route 96-B, houses offices and light-manufacturing tenants in the redeveloped NCR and Axiohm building.

But no matter how the building and site are eventually redeveloped, one thing is clear: It's going to be very complicated.

The building and parcel straddle the border between the city and town of Ithaca, meaning two sets of zoning laws would have to be dealt with before redevelopment can occur. There is also known pollution, including tricholoroethene and tetrachloroethylene, at the site and trickling down the hill into residential areas from decades of industrial activity at the plant.

Site eyed for mixed use
The whole site is assessed at $3.5 million. The building is so large even Emerson was using only part of it.

Phyllisa DeSarno, City of Ithaca deputy director for economic development, said she would like to see a mixed-use project move in, with residential units alongside commercial and retail space. DeSarno said several developers have toured the site in recent months.

"I definitely believe it should be a mixed use," she said. "That would be the most positive project we could see. There are some interesting things out there and we need to talk about them."

Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman said a mixed-use project could also include light industrial space, though the idea of residential units is also desirable.

"There are lots of great ideas for the site," Engman said. "What it comes down to is who's going to buy it."

Engman said the city and town are willing to work together to make development possible, but a project must be proposed before the municipalities can move forward.

Other proposed uses for the site Engman has heard include a district heating plant, which could provide power to downtown, South Hill Business Campus or Ithaca College. But Engman said it seems clear that the site's days as a manufacturing plant are over.

"I doubt we're going to see that sort of use in there again," he said.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said a mixed-use project on the site would fit into the DIA's 2020 Strategic Plan, which calls for 1,500 more housing units in the downtown area and a stronger transit link from downtown to the campuses and West End. The Emerson site is four blocks from downtown, he points out.

"It's a big community asset that needs to be tamed," he said.

But DeSarno said there's no telling when development might occur.

"There's no time frame around it," she said. "It's obviously going to become an eyesore, maybe even an issue if it sits there empty for a long time. Right now it's secure, there's security there. We certainly don't want the property to sit there wasting away."

Pollution a roadblock
Before any new owner can move in, the toxins on the site need to be cleaned up.

"If you're doing a story on what's not happening up there, you'll be able to fill the entire paper," said John Graves, president of the South Hill Neighborhood Association, with a laugh. "If you're doing a story on what's happened -- there's not much."

In October, the state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a final cleanup plan for the neighborhood downhill from the plant. The plan calls for replacing a 300-foot section of sewer line on East Spencer Street, where readings of toxic vapors in homes were highest, and installing mechanicals to vent vapors in the future. Graves said he expects that plan to move forward soon.

The site itself has a groundwater filtration system that has not effectively addressed the problem, according to Walter Hang of the Ithaca company Toxics Targeting. Hang is known for his tough stance on pollution issues.

Hang said the cost to completely remediate the site has not been calculated because the DEC has not required that level of cleanup.

Calling the DEC's decision "shockingly inadequate," Hang said he plans to push the new DEC deputy commissioner, Eugene Leff, to require a more comprehensive cleanup.

"We're hoping that (Leff) will do more to require the removal of the toxic pollution," Hang said. "The minute they found the contamination in the 70s it should have been removed immediately."

Emerson has stabilized and sealed the site, Graves said. Monitoring wells placed on the property and throughout the neighborhood below keep tabs on where the contaminants are moving.

Graves said he believes a more stringent cleanup plan will be possible once a definite development plan is in place.

"My whole theory is ... development has to happen before we can really see what the cleanup is going to be. We have to decide what the development is going to be, then the DEC will have to revisit that plan."


Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...text|FRONTPAGE


For reference, here's a pic (from MichaelTurk @ flickr) which shows the factory (you can less than half of it in the bottom right of the pic) in proximity to downtown Ithaca:

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Old Posted Apr 14, 2011, 10:11 PM
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I know, I know, this isn't like a big convention bringing in a ton of money a la Las Vegas, but for a small place like Ithaca, unaccustomed to hosting anything this size, it was good to see it went well. Article from the Ithaca Journal:


Teamwork presented best face at conference

6:31 PM, Apr. 13, 2011
Written by
Fred Bonn

A couple weekends ago, Ithaca was busier than usual. South Hill was filled with tour buses and vans. Downtown bustled with shoppers and diners. Hotels were packed with students and families. From a business standpoint, it was great for a chilly weekend in April.

Credit goes to Ithaca College and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Four years in planning, NCUR brought 3,100 young researchers to Ithaca. It was the second-largest conference to hit the county in the past decade and a major undertaking for IC. But it took a community to make it such a success.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance worked closely with organizers to plan for NCUR. Alliance staff provided local information, a concierge desk, dining reservations and guided downtown excursions. They even coordinated a coupon book with special incentives from 30 downtown businesses.

Restaurants such as Moosewood geared up with extra staff and extended hours to handle the influx. Managers there said business was up 30 percent or more.

TCAT worked to encourage use of mass transit, adding buses to provide more than 2,600 rides to conference attendees. The coordinated effort minimized automobile traffic and maximized the movement of people countywide.

At Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, airlines added ground staff and Transportation Security Administration bolstered screeners to handle the packed flight schedule. The airport even accommodated a pair of fully-loaded 737s chartered for NCUR. They were the largest aircraft to land here in years.

Finger Lakes State Parks also pitched in for weekend visitors. They coordinated a bus tour of local waterfalls for NCUR students, trained volunteer tour guides to handle the influx and added additional weekend tours to show visitors why Ithaca is "Gorges."

This effort came atop the work done by local hotels, B&Bs, transportation companies and our staff here at Visitors Bureau. For us, the success of NCUR represents the culmination of three years' work — from initial planning and facilitation to organizing room blocks and staffing the conference's information desk.

It was indeed a team effort. And the teamwork paid off. Overall economic impact from NCUR was an impressive $828,000, based on average spending figures from the county's 2010 Visitor Profile.

Our thanks to everyone involved, particularly the hardworking staff and volunteers at Ithaca College. Kudos to events director David Prunty, meeting planner Linda Callahan and special assistant to the provost Marian Brown.

This event exemplifies what our community can accomplish by working together. It confirms the strong partnership between Ithaca College and the Ithaca community. With the launch of IC's new A&E Center this fall, we can only imagine the successes yet to come.

*Bonn is director of the Ithaca/ Tompkins Convention and Visitors Bureau.*



And here's a news report reference a conference of young NY professionals held at Cornell:

http://centralny.ynn.com/content/537...tewide-summit/
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Old Posted Apr 19, 2011, 10:46 PM
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Some specifics about Tompkins County from the 2010 census (via the Ithaca Journal):


Census: Tompkins' diversity stable

But multi-racial segment increases
6:51 PM, Apr. 18, 2011
Written by
Liz Lawyer

Tompkins County became ever-so-slightly less white over the last decade, according to census data released last month, but county residents reporting themselves as multi-racial took a big jump.

Whites make up 82.6 percent of the population in Tompkins County, according to 2010 Census data, compared to 85.5 percent in 2000. The total population was 101,564 at the time of the census last April.

The second-largest racial group, Asians, increased by a little more than a percentage point, from 7.2 percent of the population in 2000 to 8.6 percent of the population in 2010. The large number of Asian residents may be attributed to Ithaca's two four-year colleges, which are a draw for students from outside the region.

Blacks are the third-largest group, and residents claiming only black heritage are half as common in the county as residents claiming only Asian heritage. Blacks made up 4 percent of the county's residents, up less than half a percentage point in 2010 from 3.6 percent in 2000.

Multi-racial growth
In 2010, 3,286 people, or 3.2 percent counted themselves as being of two or more races. Ten years ago, 2,180 people, or 2.3 percent, said they were multi-racial.

The number of people who are both white and black more than doubled. Last year, 1,001, or slightly less than 1 percent of the total population in 2010, said they are white and black, while in 2000, 436 people, or 0.5 percent of the total population, claimed both races.

People claiming both white and Asian heritage had a similar increase, up to 965 in 2010 from 437 in 2000.

Latino growth
The Hispanic or Latino population in the county also grew over the last decade, with 4,264 people of any race claiming Hispanic or Latino heritage. In 2000, there were 2,968 Hispanic or Latino residents in the county.

Hispanic origins were not classified as races in the census. According to the Census Bureau, "'Hispanic or Latino' refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."

More information on the census data can be found at factfinder2.census.gov.


Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...text|FRONTPAGE
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A residential project moves forward in the town of Ithaca (just outside the city limits), from the Ithaca Journal:


Town of Ithaca planning board approves Belle Sherman housing project

Plan calls for 19 homes, 10 townhouse units
10:16 PM, Apr. 19, 2011
Written by
Rachel Stern

The Town of Ithaca Planning Board Tuesday night unanimously approved the final site plan for the Belle Sherman Cottages project.

In a 6-0 vote, the board granted final approval for a project that has been in the works for more than two years. The project, located on Mitchell Street, involves the development of 19 single-family houses and 10 attached townhouse units on 3.1 acres. The proposal involves 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.

A few members of the public voiced concerns about increased traffic the project will cause and the way the project will affect Vine Street. Vine Street is a private road, however, and owned by project owners Susan and Harold Mix, said board Chairman Fred Wilcox. The board also concluded the traffic added will not have a significant negative impact.

"Yes there is increased traffic, but I don't think anyone will notice one additional car every 15 minutes," Wilcox said.

But Vine Street resident Larry Hymes voiced concerns. He said the majority of people living in the townhouses would take Vine Street to access Mitchell Street. As a result, he said, there would be 20 to 30 additional trips per day on Vine Street.

"The traffic analysis does not address the impact on Vine Street itself," he said. "This development will have a significant impact on this particular street. The present condition of Vine Street cannot handle increased traffic. It is at best one and a half car widths wide."

Project applicant Toby Millman, president of Agora Homes, said he gave residents of Vine Street a choice earlier in the process. He offered to build fewer units, but not improve the quality of Vine Street or build more units and improve the street's conditions. Millman said the residents chose to have fewer units built.

"The next day they said they liked the new plan and that was what initiated this current program," he said. "With fewer units we could not cover the additional cost of improving Vine Street."

The board decided to require signs to be posted on Vine Street that read "private road." Board member Jon Bosak said he believed those signs would deter traffic.

"That is a sensible proposal," he said. "Signs that indicate it is a private road may mitigate traffic."

The planning board's decision was the final hurdle for the housing project.


Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/arti...text|FRONTPAGE


Here's a link to the project (not much though):

http://www.agoradevelopment.com/Current_Projects.html


Hey Vis, good comment.
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2011, 11:23 PM
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I used to go to school there. Seems like a lot of local lobbying against just about any development
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2011, 12:04 AM
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^ I sometimes think many Ithacans want to go back to the 60s and stay there forever.
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Well someone has to drag Ithaca/Tompkins into the new millennium, even if the area's kicking and screaming all the way. And Ex, I just got a little red in the face. Guess it wasn't too hard to tell that was me.

On that note, when it comes to pro-development arguments, I think on the local level, the financial argument and increased tax dollars talking point works pretty well. The affordable housing talking point only works on certain crowds.

I kinda like the Vine Street project. It's low-impact and fits in with the neighborhood better than the old trucking company ever did. Given the new four-story apartment building being built on Maple Avenue and this project, I'd say that Outer Collegetown/East Hill is growing at a pretty good clip. Only a matter of time before we see development (Cornell graduate housing or private) push east towards East Hill Plaza.
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^ I agree there will be more development in the town of Ithaca, but I hope that doesn't affect the densification (and hopefully more projects with more height) in the city.


Good points Vis, especially since over half the property in Ithaca is tax-exempt.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2011, 10:22 PM
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I know Ithaca's main industry is education, but I do wonder why there are soooooo many studies (which often cost quite a bit) to arrive at a conclusion which seems clear to most folks. This is especially true when it comes to possible new developments. Seems the city/county could spruce up some empty space downtown and get started with the planning/building a new county administration building (there's undeveloped land downtown).


Articles from the Ithaca Journal:

Tompkins court to county: Let's get moving

Judge seeks firm date for courthouse conversion
6:38 PM, Apr. 15, 2011
Written by
Liz Lawyer

Ithaca -- The Tompkins County Legislature and government offices may have to move out of the courthouse on Tioga Street sooner than planned.

The New York State Court System needs more space in the building, and the county has begun feasibility studies on whether a Center of Government building in downtown would make sense.

The county recently purchased the former Carpet Bazaar building on West State Street to convert it to office space for the County Office for the Aging.

Supreme Court Judge Robert Mulvey, administrative judge for the 6th Judicial District, told the county legislature's Capital Plan Review Committee this week that space is the court system's most urgent need and the courts would be satisfied to occupy the needed space with only "minimal renovations" now, instead of proceeding with a recommended full-blown renovation that could cost more than $3.8 million and take close to two years.

While avoiding the cost of a full renovation would be positive for the county, legislature chair Martha Robertson cautioned that the legislature "has nowhere to go" right now.

Mulvey told the committee the court needs the county to set a firm date regarding when it will vacate the legislature chambers, which will be made into a courtroom.

The committee voted Thursday to recommend allocating an additional $75,000 in contingency funds to support a business case analysis for a Center of Government concept, in addition to the $50,000 already approved.

County Administrator Joe Mareane said study will enable the county to take a reasoned, long-term look at the space configuration for many of the county's departments, instead of making reactive, situational decisions, and will help to determine what's best for the county and best for the taxpayer,

Here's the link:
http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011104150359


This article also includes other stuff going on in Tompkins County:

Cramped courts force Tompkins Legislature to seek new chambers

12:13 AM, Apr. 22, 2011
Written by
Staff reports

The Tompkins County Legislature is looking for new digs after the New York State Court System requested a firm timetable for the legislature to vacate its current chambers.

The chambers will be made into a courtroom for the state Supreme Court. Under the New York State Court Facilities Act, counties are mandated to provide whatever space is needed by the court system

Space in the Old Courthouse was discussed Wednesday as a possible interim space for the legislature's business until a permanent location is found.

Legislator Mike Lane, D-Dryden, said money spent on retrofitting for an interim solution, followed by permanent facilities such as a Center of Government administrative building, would amount to spending twice.

Chairwoman Martha Robertson said she believes an interim move to the Old Courthouse would involve little expense. She said a lot of information must still be gathered before any decision is made.

Also Wednesday, the legislature accepted a Climate Showcase Communities grant of more than $375,000 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency by a 14-1 vote. Legislator Frank Proto, R-Caroline/Danby, said his dissenting vote did not reflect opposition to accepting the funding, but his concern about the potential use of county-owned land on West Hill for such housing as part of the grant-funded initiative.

Planning Commissioner Ed Marx said the grant application indicates only that the county, working with the Town of Ithaca, will develop a request for proposals from prospective developers, which would seek to demonstrate that private development can incorporate energy-efficient, community-based housing principles.

Other actions taken Wednesday include:

» Authorization for the county to submit up to $750,000 for an application under the New York State Community Development Block Grant Program for 2011. The funding would support a rehabilitation program in homes of low- to middle-income county residents to replace dilapidated roofs and make water and sewer improvements.

» Appropriation of more than $340,000 in grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration to support the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council's 2011-2012 budget.

» Approval of a resolution, sponsored by Legislator Dooley Kiefer, D-Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights, acknowledging Earth Day and supporting community-wide activities and events marking the day.


Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011104210362
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2011, 11:13 PM
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Some reaction to the Collegetown urban plan, not surprising. I agree the parking problem is a sticky point. The land in C-town is as valuable as Manhattan (no, really). So any developer is going to need big bucks to build, especially in the core area. I wish the height limit would be raised about 30 to 40 feet so it would be economically feasible for developers to provide a few stories of parking on the lower level of a building to cover the parking requirements in the plan. This would also mean the city would not need to build another garage in the neighborhood. Anyway, just a thought.
From the Ithaca Journal:

Collegetown residents concerned with Urban Plan

10:14 PM, Apr. 20, 2011
Written by
Liz Lawyer


Collegetown residents said they have several concerns with the Collegetown Urban Plan and several revisions discussed Wednesday evening.

A public hearing on the zoning changes in the Collegetown area was held at a meeting of Common Council's Planning and Economic Development Committee. Residents had various and sometimes-conflicting concerns about how the plan deals with parking, beautification of the area and residents' interest in having a grocery store.

Several portions of the plan were up for a vote Wednesday. The committee voted unanimously to approve the establishment of form districts and rezoning of certain areas. Three other items were not voted on by press time. About two dozen people attended the meeting.

Kathy Yoselson said: "Instead of office space and retail space, we want a grocery store. That will help the community more than having upper floors of office space."

Ann Clavel passed out plastic bags of trash to the members of the committee before urging them to consider how the plan's parking component will affect her neighborhood.

"I'm asking you to delay any action on the transportation aspect of this plan," Clavel said. "You do not have a study. You do not have any information on how many people drive here."

Clavel said students bring cars with them to Ithaca, and limiting parking will not discourage that. Instead, students will park in surrounding neighborhoods, including hers.

"Not allowing (new residential buildings) to have offsite parking means students will be parking in my neighborhood," Clavel said. "You will be putting the trash I have given you symbolically into my neighborhood."

Ithaca resident Todd Saddler said requiring any parking for new developments, however, is counter-productive if the goal is to reduce driving in Collegetown.

"If we don't want more cars in Collegetown, why require more parking?" Saddler said. "We should eliminate the parking requirement and let the developer build the amount of parking that makes sense for their building."


Here's the link:

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps...=2011104200405


Here's another take on the issue from the Cornell Daily Sun:

Collegetown Plan Raises Concern Among Residents

April 21, 2011
By Liz Camuti

Common Council members and Collegetown dwellers discussed four initiatives intended to implement the 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan & Conceptual Design Guidelines, plus an amendment that would have increased the chances of a full-service grocery store opening in Collegetown, at the City of Ithaca Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The discussion followed a public hearing on four proposals set forth by the City of Ithaca earlier this month.

The proposals — which seek to increase the density in the core of Collegetown while protecting the character and aesthetic quality of single-family homes in surrounding residential neighborhoods — will likely be voted on by the Common Council May 4.

The major point of contention for community members and the committee was the potential addition of grocery stores under the approved year-round community benefits in the proposed “height incentive district” in the core of Collegetown.

Under the height-incentive proposal, developers would be allowed to build to a maximum of 84 feet — 24 feet higher than the current maximum — in exchange for including year-round uses on at least one story. Currently hotels, Class A office space, and non-tax-exempt research and development space are included under such approved uses.

During the public hearing, Collegetown resident Graham Kerslick identified “the need for a full service grocery store as an essential component of any real community,” but one that “seems to have been ignored” in the plan.

“There needs to be a more creative and preemptive approach to this aspect of Collegetown’s vision,” Kerslick said.

Alderperson Jennifer Dotson (D-1st), who chaired the meeting, proposed the addition of a grocery store under the approved community benefits in the height incentive district proposal, but the amendment was unanimously rejected by the committee with a vote of 0-5.

Although she said that she was in support of the the grocery store “in concept,” Alderperson Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd) said that she was skeptical of the feasibility of the amendment because of the decreased population in Collegetown over academic breaks.

“A grocery store would require a full-year community [in Collegetown] to ensure that it would not fail,” McCollister said “And then there is the question if a building would not be able to get a new certificate of occupancy if the store were to fail.”

Alderperson Dan Cogan M.S. ’95 (D-5th), a committee member, said he shared similar concerns about the ability of a building to renew its certificate of occupancy under the proposal, should the requirement to provide non-student uses fail to be met.

“We could say that once your certificate of occupancy ends, you have 90 days to provide us a better benefit over time,” Cogan said. “But with a lack of buildings being able to obtain a building permit, this could take years.”

Alderperson Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th), was skeptical of whether building owners would have an incentive to renew their certificates of occupancy, should the grocery store fail.

“I lived in a building in Collegetown that hadn’t renewed its certificate of occupancy in 20 years, and when there was a fire in the basement we all got evicted,” Myrick said. “There are good, responsible developers and families in Collegetown, but I think there are far too many for whom this would be unreasonable.”

Cogan also added that before the amendment passes, “more studies need to be done to show that the grocery store will succeed.”

During the public hearing, many town residents also voiced concern over the proposed “parking overlay zone,” one of the four proposals stemming from the 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan & Conceptual Design Guidelines. This proposal aims to reduce the number of cars in Collegetown by allowing developers to pay into a fund dedicated to transportation improvements in lieu of providing parking for their tenants.

Collegetown resident Anne Clavel J.D. ’77 passed out bags of trash to committee members in an attempt to convince committee members to “delay any action on the proposed transportation aspects of the plan.”

According to Clavel, by reducing the demands on landlords to provide parking for their tenants, students would resort to parking outside of single-family homes — passing the “trash of Collegetown” into her neighborhood.

“Ithaca, N.Y., is in the middle of nowhere … Most upper class students and graduate students drive by car,” Clavel said. “You can’t just wish cars away.”

The committee did not propose any amendments to the parking overlay zone during the action portion of the meeting.

here's the link:

http://www.cornelldailysun.com/secti...mong-residents


btw, here's a shot of the core of Collegetown (from Bing):

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Old Posted Apr 25, 2011, 10:15 PM
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A pro-development editorial from the Cornell Daily Sun:

Collegetown Development

April 25, 2011
OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, the Ithaca Common Council has debated a proposal that would seek to increase population density in the core of Collegetown to better preserve the surrounding areas for local families. The plan calls for raising the maximum height on residential buildings in Collegetown’s center, abolishing the requirement for developers to provide parking for their tenants and obligating new buildings to conform to certain design standards.

The plan will certainly encourage development in Collegetown’s center. Presently, developers are unable to make use of much of the area’s space. The city’s current parking requirement forces developers to build outdoor parking lots where there should be buildings. The parking lots next to Jason’s Grocery and Deli and on the side of 312 College Avenue would serve many more students if they were converted into high-rise buildings.

Currently, Collegetown housing is notoriously hard for students to find. Dozens of students each year are left living in dorms or on the far outskirts of Collegetown because there simply isn’t enough housing to go around in the center. Encouraging more building would help curtail, to some degree, the mad rush at the beginning of each year to locate housing and provide dozens more with the ability to live where they want.

The new design requirements also appear generally positive, albeit more inconvenient for new developers. The new proposal would require all new buildings to conform to a certain “form-based code” and mandate that they receive design review. In an area as small as Collegetown, where each building stands out relatively prominently, it only makes sense that they be held to some standards for appearance and design.

Yet the proposal is by no means complete. The Council owes it to students to pay greater attention to the potential consequences of the parking overlay zone changes before this proposal is approved. Though the current plan would allow developers to construct buildings over certain parking lots in Collegetown –– in exchange for a fee to be paid to the city –– no plan has been formulated about what to do with the cars that are displaced. Some have suggested using parking garages in Ithaca downtown, others have proposed constructing space on campus, while most have offered no real solution.

Under the plan, the Council would be able to put all such fees collected into a general fund to improve certain aspects of Collegetown. This could range from constructing alternative parking lots for student use to projects like improving Collegetown’s sidewalks. However, these plans, up until now, have been generally vague. Using parking downtown will only prove incredibly inconvenient for students — who, as the primary residents and consumers in Collegetown, would be most affected by the proposal.

Moving forward, it is important for Council members to formulate a concrete plan about how they will deal with the loss of parking in Collegetown for students before this proposal is approved, and any such plans should provide for the same cost and convenience that students would stand to lose under the current proposal.

Here's the link:

http://www.cornelldailysun.com/secti...wn-development
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Old Posted Apr 28, 2011, 10:41 PM
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And so continues the Collegetown Mastr Plan debate (getting a bit nasty, eh). From the Ithaca Times:


City of Ithaca: Developer lashes out at Collegetown landlords

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 5:30 pm
By Joseph Murtagh

Complaints about big residential buildings and bags of trash greeted members of the Common Council's Planning and Economic Development Committee at its meeting Wednesday, April 20.

Several members of the public showed up at the session to speak their mind about the proposed Collegetown Comprehensive Plan. The plan, which offers a blueprint for future development in Collegetown, seeks to increase density in the core of Collegetown by raising the maximum height for new buildings, obligating new construction to conform to certain design standards and installing a payment-in-lieu of parking incentive for new development.

While many were critical of the plan, not all ascribed to that sentiment.

John Novarr, the developer behind the Collegetown Terrace project, made an appearance to speak his mind on the plan, which he supports. Novarr had harsh words for Collegetown landlords who he said were not offering quality student housing.

"The real problem in Collegetown is that much of the built environment is old and worn out and was never intended to be used as it is today," said Novarr. "Some property owners have for decades been profiting enormously, without reinvesting the requisite dollars to maintain and improve their properties and keep them safe. These people do not run good businesses, they are not responsible citizens, and they certainly do not deserve the city's support to maintain profitability of their crummy, poorly-maintained, and unsafe real estate."

Novarr denied that there was any plan to sell Collegetown Terrace to Cornell, which was a concern of some of the residents. He also pointed out that Collegetown was the most economically viable community in Ithaca and that several of the proposals requested by residents who oppose the Collegetown plan wouldn't be supported by the market.

"For those people who blame Cornell for all of life's problems, perhaps they should recognize that Ithaca and Tompkins County have one of the healthiest economies in upstate New York, and that without Cornell we would be like Binghamton or Syracuse," said Novarr. "Collegetown is called Collegetown for a reason. It's where the students live. It's by far the most profitable area in the City of Ithaca, and when you listen to the neighbors talk, they want grocery stores, things that aren't student-oriented. Businesspeople recognize that the biggest market in the area is college students, and all that will happen if opponents push hard with this is that they will make Collegetown less viable."

Those who were critical, however, expressed concern with several components of the plan, including the width of building facades, the impact to views of new construction, traffic problems arising from the implementation of the payment-in-lieu of parking system, and concerns that properties would be purchased by Cornell and taken off the tax rolls. According to longtime Collegetown resident Neil Golder, the plan would encourage development that could decrease the livability and quality of life in the neighborhood.

"The biggest context for me is what's happening on East State Street, where we see so many perfectly good houses that are being torn down to be replaced by larger dorm-type housing," said Golder, referring to the construction on the Collegetown Terrace development. "For people driving up East State Street, how will this look? I'm wondering about the livability of our city, because some of the things that would result from this plan, it seems that's mostly what's left is big buildings, and I think that's a problem."

Collegetown resident Ann Clavel passed out bags of trash to committee members and said that with the new Collegetown plan that "students will be parking in my neighborhood, and what you're doing is passing the trash of Collegetown, which I've just given you metaphorically, into my neighborhood."



Here's the link:

http://www.ithaca.com/news/ithaca/ar...cc4c03286.html
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