ITHACA, N.Y. — As the plans slowly but steadily progress through city hall, another Collegetown project finally makes its debut, including its first public renderings.

The project in question is the 67-unit apartment project proposed by prominent local developer John Novarr for a site at 119-125 College Avenue, a couple blocks south of Collegetown’s core. The site plan review can be found here, historical documentation here, and drawings here. Images show a modern-looking design consisting of three structures. Two of the buildings will be row-houses, and a third building located in the rear of the property will host more typical garden apartments. The two rowhouse buildings and rear apartment structure will be separated by a lawn and terraced modestly to account for the site’s slope. Counting basement space, the built space will come in at 49,278 square feet, but the buildings are in full compliance with the site’s 50% maximum lot coverage, and 4-story, 45-foot maximum height zoning restrictions. Apartment units will range in size from studios to two-bedrooms.

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Unlike many Collegetown projects, the intended market is not Cornell students. Rather, Novarr-Mackesey Development has geared the project to appeal to short-term visiting faculty and researchers who are working at Cornell. The faculty apartments will not include parking on-site – according to the site plan document, “[i]t is expected that the overwhelming majority of users will walk or ride the bus”. Bike racks will be provided, a shuttle bus will be provided to ferry tenants to and from campus, and a modest amount of parking will be providing at another property “in the vicinity of the project” for those who wish to maintain a vehicle. One parking possibility is Collegetown Terrace, another Novarr property a couple blocks away that has previously reported having more parking spaces than it needs. While targeted at a very specific subset of Cornellians, the site plan review document states that the $10 million project will stay on the tax rolls.


Three boarding houses dating from the late 19th century would have to be removed to make way for the project. A historical analysis by Bero Architecture states that the white Queen Anne-style house at 119 College Avenue was built as a boarding house in the early 1890s, the white Italianate-style house at 121 College Avenue was built as a personal residence in the early 1870s, and the stucco-coated house at 125 College Avenue was constructed as a personal residence in the 1870s. The three properties fell under the same ownership in the 1960s, and had been owned by the Hills family for over forty years before their sale to a Novarr-associated LLC earlier this year. According to the deed filed with Tompkins County, the sale price was $4.75 million, far more than their combined tax assessment of $1.655 million. Environmental remediation work (asbestos removal) has already commenced on the house at 121 College Avenue.

Local design firm Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture is guiding the apartment project through the review process, but the designer of the buildings is Princeton-based ikon.5 Architects, the same firm that designed Collegetown Terrace. The project will meet with the city planning board’s Design Review Committee next week for architectural and site plan discussion. The proposed construction time frame is April 2017 through April 2018.

Brian Crandall

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