ITHACA, N. Y. — In the latest twist to the ongoing Maguire Family of Dealerships plan to build new outlets in Ithaca, the 440-person automotive sales and service company is shifting its attention away from Carpenter Business Park near the waterfront, to a vacant plot of land on the city’s southwest side.

Previously, the plans for the Carpenter site were put on hold after the city of Ithaca Common Council rejected the proposal amid fierce opposition from community members, many of whom expressed concerns that the plan did not fit in with the community’s vision of a walkable waterfront neighborhood. For Maguire, it was the second rejection in three years, after zoning and planning squabbles with the town of Ithaca led them to scrap a proposal off of Route 13 and Seven Mile Drive.

The new project would be tucked away from Route 13’s big box retail corridor, behind Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. The plans call for three dealerships outfitted with solar panels, roof gardens and rainwater harvesting features. Porous asphalt, rain gardens and new landscaping are also included within the early site plans. Additional sites for future development are also identified.

maguire swpark

While the property is located away from residential areas, it does pose a number of challenges. The property has a high water table and poor soil, so building foundations can be tricky and pricey. Although an easement is planned to alleviate flooding concerns, the property, previously part of the city landfill and county fairgrounds, is home to a number of wetland areas. New York State requires that any significant wetlands must be replaced with new wetlands that pass the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s quality standards. Given the high expense and uncertain outcomes for artificial wetland creation, most developers actively avoid wetlands.

However, it appears that the city is actively working with Maguire in their plans for this location. The Southwest Park property is currently owned by the city. The press release notes that elected officials and city staff have played a role in helping Maguire select a site that would enable them to be close to the county’s population centers, but would avoid major conflicts with the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan, and there may be less public scrutiny since it’s a low-profile location in a suburban neighborhood. The city has sought development of the Southwest Park area since the 1990s, although its primary use for retail, car-oriented development has created significant debate over the past couple decades.

However, according to city planning director JoAnn Cornish, there is still much work to do before anything gets underway. “It’s a long process to sell city property, and we’re just at the beginning of that conversation. There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved.”

Although a small portion of the property falls into the city’s Waterfront Study Area and would therefore be subject to Common Council review under the Temporary Mandatory Planned Urban Development (TMPUD), there are no plans to develop that portion of the property at this time. According to Cornish, by the time the sale of plan would take place, the TMPUD will most likely have expired.

A copy of the press release is included below.

“Mayor and Others Suggest Alternative Site for Maguire Expansion

Over the past several months, the Maguire Family of Dealerships and its representatives have continued to work with city officials in an effort to identify alternative expansion sites for its growing retail sales needs. The Common Council rejected Maguire’s original proposal back in November, effectively halting Maguire’s plan to invest $18 million in the City of Ithaca over three years at three different locations. It also derailed Maguire’s plans for Carpenter Business Park which included a $12 million, 50,000 square foot LEED certified green auto retail store.

In place of Carpenter Business Park, the City of Ithaca recently proposed Southwest Park as an alternative site for Maguire’s expansion. Located off of Route 13 (Elmira Road) behind Lowes and Wal-Mart, Southwest Park has been vacant for many years. Because of its numerous site challenges, including poor soil, existing wet lands and past use as a land fill, successful development of the site for commercial use will necessitate the flexibility and active support of the City.

Southwest Park offers adequate space for Maguire’s auto mall, but will require several of the wetland parcels to be removed, reduced, or relocated to allow for development in the southeast corner of the park. Maguire intends to comply with all state and federal guidelines in making these site alterations. Maguire’s plan for Southwest Park tentatively proposes the site be developed as a campus with three buildings housing five auto manufacturers, a collision center, and display and customer parking.

Construction will be phased over a number of years. Maguire’s revised proposal continues to reflect the family’s deep commitment to the environment and is LEED certification, featuring rooftop solar panels and extensive green features.

“We appreciate the City continuing to work with us to find an appropriate site and a proposal that will be mutually beneficial for both the City of Ithaca and Maguire,” said Phil Maguire. “We are committed to expanding in the City and making this work for everyone.”

Mayor Myrick, members of the Common Council, and city officials have been very positive and supportive of Maguire’s new Southwest Park proposal. The expansion would benefit the City and have a lasting positive economic impact.

Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) estimated the original Carpenter Business Park project would contribute an additional $106,343 in property and $419,338 in sales taxes to the City of Ithaca annually, as well as create over $1.9 million in new wages each year. When multipliers are included, the entire project would have added 77+ jobs and close to $3.4 million in new wages to the community. A Southwest Park expansion will have a greater economic benefit to the surrounding community.”

Brian Crandall

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