ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca’s Common Council unanimously agreed to support a proposal to secure New York state funding to revive Jason Fane’s Masonic Temple Wednesday night.
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“I fully support this,” said Ellen McCollister, a Common Council member who represents the city’s 3rd Ward, at City Hall. “I know it’s been controversial over the years, but it’s a great building and a great opportunity.”
As we recently reported: Local developer Jason Fane is hoping a state grant will help him bring life back into the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Ithaca.
Built in 1926, the former home of the Ithaca Freemasons at 115-117 North Cayuga Street has sat empty and unused for a number of years despite its central location and iconic nature.
That may soon change because of a New York state grant program that encourages revitalization efforts at historic sites in downtown urban centers. Fane has now secured the City of Ithaca’s support in his application to use funding from the New York Main Street Grant Program for the Masonic Temple site.
If secured, the grant would allow Fane to convert the Masonic Temple into a site that could be rented and used, according to a letter sent to city officials on Wednesday by Nathan Lyman, of Fane’s Ithaca Renting Company.
Lyman says in his letter that the 20,000 square foot Masonic Temple has sat empty in part because of its designation as a historic site, which makes it difficult to convert into a space desirable to prospective tenants and businesses.
That claim drew a response from Christine O’Malley, preservation services coordinator of Historic Ithaca, who said the historic designation is not a roadblock to developing a site.
“Such an assertion is not truly accurate and largely ignores several important tax incentive programs that exist for historic buildings,” O’Malley wrote in a guest piece with the Ithaca Voice.
“…Historic designation of a building, therefore, is not a total roadblock to successful adaptive reuse and redevelopment. The sheer number of examples across New York State and, in fact, across the nation make this very clear.”