ITHACA, N.Y. — Plans are moving ahead to bring new life to the old Ithaca Masonic Temple. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) will get their first look at proposed renovations at their meeting next Tuesday.
The building, built in 1926 at 115-117 N. Cayuga Street, was designated a local landmark in 1994. Although located on a prominent corner just outside Ithaca’s growing downtown core, the Masonic Temple has sat empty for a number of years, the last tenant being the Odyssey nightclub a decade ago. The building has been described as functionally obsolete – its outdated mechanical systems and lack of handicap accessibility have made it a difficult sell to prospective commercial tenants.
The Masonic Temple is owned by prominent local landlord and real estate developer Jason Fane. In July 2015, the city Common Council voted to support an application from Fane to the New York State Main Street Program, a state-sponsored grant program that encourages revitalization efforts at historic sites in downtown urban centers.
Last December, the state awarded Fane a $500,000 grant towards the rehabilitation of the building. The initial plans were to get the ball rolling on construction this past summer, but it does appear that much-lauded renovation plan is finally moving forward.
The renovation, designed by architectural preservation specialists Johnson-Schmidt & Associates of Corning, calls for the creation of three commercial spaces, the installation of a ramp at the rear of the auditorium, and a new elevator on the southwest side of the building. With the interior kitchen still intact, it is likely that at least one of the commercial spaces would be geared towards a restaurant tenant.
A new roof membrane would be applied, the exterior limestone and stucco would be cleaned and repaired, the street windows repaired and repainted, and the auditorium windows, which had been boarded up by previous tenants, will be replaced with similar-looking new windows. The front entrance’s stone steps would be redone, and the front doors and lamp posts would be restored. The work is to be signed off on by the State Historic Preservation Office, and will apply for historic building rehabilitation tax credits.
As a locally-designated landmark, all major exterior changes must be approved by the ILPC, whose goal is to protect the historic integrity and character of the protected building or historic district. As a renovation without significant changes to the building’s square footage, the Masonic Temple plan will most likely not need the approval of the city Planning Board.
For Fane, this is another project on what appears to be a very busy schedule. Last month, The Fane Organization proposed a three-tower project in Providence, Rhode Island, with the largest building clocking in at 55 stories. The $500 million “Hope Point Towers” project would likely be the tallest in that state if approved and built.