ITHACA, N.Y. — A lot can change in a few years’ time. Affordable housing co-developers NRP Group and Arbor Housing and Development are seeking revisions to the former Holochuck Homes development plan passed by the town of Ithaca five years ago, based on their own programmatic needs as well as community feedback.
The developers revealed their plans to purchase the Holochuck property to the Voice last October, after the property and plans had been languishing on the local real estate market for years. The modified proposal, under the perhaps-bland moniker “Ithaca Townhomes”, was presented to town officials this week, with a trip to the town planning board planned for next week.
The site plan building layout is being kept the same, but that’s about the only constant between the old and new plans. The building designs are being radically altered to fit “local vernacular” and reduce “visual impact”. The original design, two-story buildings with garages, can be seen here. Now, under revised designs penned by local firm HOLT Architects with assistance from original architect Keystone Associates, the townhouses will have a more discreet profile, with units built into the hillside, one story in the front and two in the back. Other proposed modifications include replacing one of the 106 proposed townhome units with a community clubhouse (offices, library, computer room, tool exchange and re-use room), adding a playground and community gardens, additional sidewalks, and elimination of the attached garages to reduce bulk. Each unit will still have a driveway.
“The reduced building height will drastically reduce the visual impression of the units from the east side of Cayuga Lake, and in conjunction with increased landscaping along the east side of the development, minimize the visual influence on West Hill,” writes NRP Vice President P. Christopher Dirr in the submission to the town board.
The plan is to build the units in two phases, with the first 66 units plus the clubhouse targeted for a 2018-2019 build-out. Unit sizes will range from $850/month, 745 square-foot 1-bedroom units to $1500/month, 1,344 square-foot 3-bedroom units, with most units being two or three bedrooms. The infrastructure improvements (streets, lighting) will be privately built and maintained by the developer. Seven units (2 1-BR, 3 2-BR, 2 3-BR) will be set aside for the mobility impaired, three units for those with hearing or vision impairment (1 1-BR, 1 2-BR, 1 3-BR), and three units for those with special needs (1 1-BR, 1 2-BR, 1 3-BR), defined here as recovering victims of domestic violence situations.
Unlike the original Holochuck plan, where 10% of the units were to be set aside as affordable housing and the rest at market rate, the NRP plan calls for lower-and-moderate income households ranging from 50% of area median income (AMI, which is $53,000 per person), to 130% area median income – in other words, households making $26,550-$68,950, working-class to middle-class. It was previously reported that the units would open as rentals, but have an option to purchase after a 15-year period due to the requirements of the tax credits that would be sold to investors in order to finance the project.
As the townhouses head to the planning board next week, the big question facing the board and developer will be whether or not a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) will be required to go along with the original 2009-12 review. An SEIS comes into play if a project that previously completed an EIS proposes changes that may significantly and negatively alter the original findings. In this case, it’s a debate because although the home designs are different, the layout and unit total is about the same. If the board decides the changes do not require an SEIS and additional studies, the proposal would be reviewed for bureaucratically easier and less expensive changes to final approval conditions.