ITHACA, N.Y. — Residents driving down the 200 Block of Dryden Road in Collegetown have had quite a surprise over the past few weeks — the demolition of the former Royal Palm Tavern at 209-211 Dryden.

Four other buildings have also been unexpectedly demolished: 1) a two-story building at 213 Dryden, and 2-4) student apartment houses at 215 Dryden Road, 238 Linden Avenue, and 240 Linden Avenue.


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All five are owned by local developer John Novarr. Novarr, the developer behind  the Collegetown Terrace apartment complex on East State Street, purchased the Dryden Road buildings from former Royal Palm Tavern proprietor Joe Leonardo in December 2010 for $3.75 million.


The Royal Palm Tavern, most commonly referred to as “The Palms”, closed in 2012 after Leonardo claimed that the bar became financially unsustainable.

Documents filed with the city of Ithaca Building Department show that demolition permits were requested by Novarr in March and issued in early May.

“Deconstruction is almost done, we’ll be developing a plan, and we’ll be taking it to the city shortly,” said Novarr in a phone interview with the Voice on Sunday. Novarr declined to provide further details about the plan.

“When were ready, we’ll go to the city for site plan review,” he said. Novarr explained that the Palms and the other buildings had been vacant for at least a few years.


Readers might remember that Novarr previously proposed a three-building, six story, 141-unit project that would have replaced the demolished buildings as well as his still-standing property at 325 College Avenue.

That proposal, called “Collegetown Dryden”, was only presented as a sketch plan, an informal review by the city planning board to determine initial impressions and garner suggestions.

Collegetown Dryden did not undergo any formal review or approval by the city, and has not been on the Planning and Development Board’s agenda since the initial sketch plan was presented last July. It is not clear if the plan to be submitted by Novarr is a revision of Collegetown Dryden, or a completely new approach.

The sites of the Dryden Road buildings and 240 Linden Avenue are zoned MU-2, the densest form of Collegetown zoning, allowing for mixed-use, 6-story buildings with no parking requirement. 238 Linden Avenue is zoned the less dense CR-4 zoning, which also has no parking requirement but limits buildings to 4 stories.

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Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at