ITHACA, N.Y. — The old firehouse that hosts the Nines bar and restaurant has been spared. The planned redevelopment of the site at 311 College Avenue has been cancelled.
“The decision really boiled down several major factors. The historical significance of the old fire house in the back of the property and the newer one that everyone sees today. We saw the costs associated with the project potentially spiraling out of control. Given the premium we were already paying for the land, we were already taking a big risk. We’ve also really noticed softening in the market this year, so couple that with the anticipated overall cost of the project, the risk was too great,” said Todd Fox of Visum Development Group, the firm that has proposed the redevelopment.
Visum had sought to move or take down the 1900s firehouse and replace the building with a six-story mixed-use apartment building with 50 apartments and ground-floor retail. The project generated significant controversy due to what many felt was a threat to one of the few truly historic structures of Collegetown.
Although The Nines as a drinking and dining establishment holds memories for many over the past 37 years, the owners were looking to sell and the building was not formally designated as a historic landmark, so there were few avenues for legal protection while an active project was under consideration. The Planning Board strongly recommended preserving historic elements or moving the building if necessary, and briefly, the station was advertised on Craigslist as ‘free to good home’ if someone wanted to pay to move the building to a site of their choice.
The cancellation of the project presents the city with an opportunity to landmark the former station No. 9 if they choose to do so. However, while buildings can be landmarked, businesses can’t, and the future of The Nines restaurant is unknown. What is known is that Visum Development won’t be a part of it.
Fox says that he regrets the money already spent on the project and that it was an incredibly difficult decision to walk away from the proposal. “But it was the right decision for me to make at this juncture, it’s better to cut your losses then to throw good money at bad.”