ITHACA, N.Y. — It appears that the town of Lansing is once again serious about selling and developing the Town Center land. At its meeting earlier this month, the town board authorized a released a request for proposals (RFP) to developers and members of the public interested in the 156-acre property just north of the town hall. That 24-page RFP is now online.
So begins yet another chapter in the 20-year saga of the Lansing Town Center. Over the years, the Lansing Star’s Dan Veaner has followed the town center plans closely, and as the Voice is a young publication, we will be linking back to much of his fine work.
The town bought the town center land from the state in 1993 for $100,000, and at the time the land was deed-restricted to recreational use. In 2012, the town paid an additional $294,800 to remove the recreational deed restriction. HOLT Architects and TWMLA were hired to draw up some overarching design themes, a Request for Proposals was issued, and three developers responded to the 2012 RFP.
Calamar Enterprises’ Buffalo office submitted a proposal for a $17.4 million, 110-unit market-rate senior apartment building on 13.5 acres, and Cleveland-based NRP Group submitted plans for 80 one-story patio homes on about 15.5 acres. Calamar later re-sited their project at the town’s wish to the northern part of the land, and increased the number of units to 124. Green Square, led by David Taub and HOLT Architects Principal Graham Gillespie, proposed 60 units of housing and 23,000 square feet of retail in 2-3 story arrangements, as well as civic and recreational space. Altogether, the value of the three proposals approached $50 million.
However, all of this was contingent on a sewer being built, which did not happen. The developers agreed to do a package plant that would service just the town center, there was discussion of an IDA-backed tax incentive zone, and the town stood to make a hefty return on investment, but to quote the Star:
“However, the deals fell through. Actually, it seemed more like they just faded away. At least one of the developers had signed paperwork saying they intended to purchase acreage from the Town. The Town didn’t seem in any hurry to sell the land, even with clearly interested developers. When the developers disappeared there was no reported effort by the town to pursue the deals.”
Since then, the town has continued to get a steady stream of interest in the property, but up until last summer there was no strong push to move forward, or a firm grasp of how to move forward. Finally last June, with looming concerns about the power plant’s future and tax dollars, there was real momentum to do something with the lands. Town officials and stuff discussed what they wanted and how to move forward, which culminated in the January 18th vote for a second RFP.
According to the RFP, the town has conceptually subdivided the 156 acres into nine parcels. Six – “A”, “D”,”E”,”F”,”H” and “I”, would be for sale to development; the other three, “B”,”C” and “G”, would be kept by the town for recreational use and potential public buildings. A developer could by one of the six subsections, or all six if they so wanted.
The town is open to hotels, retail, housing, office and R&D space, farming, and small-scale manufacturing. Emphasis will be on creating a pedestrian-friendly, walkable neighborhood, open space preservation, and sustainable building design. The ideal touted in the RFP is a “small town downtown”.
Each submission will be judged on the offer price, proposed use, overall investment and infrastructure improvements, expansion of tax base and jobs created, and compatibility with the town center concept. the site has water, but the RFP notes that natural gas is limited “pending scheduled infrastructure improvements”, and sewer would need to be installed on-site. The town’s zoning is in flux so they are not rigidly emphasized, but plans are expected to keep in character with the rest of the community.
All submissions are due by March 1st. From there, the town board has put together to review submissions and judge them based on how well they meet the RFP criteria. Those that look good will be reviewed for feasibility and developers will be interviewed. If that works out, the town designates “Preferred Developer” for that parcel, and the two sign a “pre-development agreement”. Then environmental review by the planning board takes place, and the development agreement is finalized.
One last thing to note – the RFP says no developer can release information until the town consents, so basically, the town holds all the cards on publicizing/sharing news of the proposals. Nevertheless, this merits close monitoring to see who and how Lansing gets its long-awaited town center.