327 West Seneca Street

ITHACA, N.Y. — Visum Development Group was named the fastest growing company in Upstate New York this year, and it appears their interest in their hometown of Ithaca hasn’t abated. Plans shown to the city planning board last night detail the latest apartment building the firm has planned in the city of Ithaca.

The new 3-story, 12-unit building would be located at 327 West Seneca Street, on the northern edge of what city planners (and consequently, zoning) recognize as the State Street Corridor. Currently, an older 3-unit apartment house exists at the site, and has been for sale for a little over a year.

Plans for the new apartment building, designed by frequent Visum partner STREAM Collaborative, call for 6 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. The relatively simple design is intended to quietly fit in with the apartment houses that neighbor it on either side, and the new structure would be finished in stucco and fiber cement clapboard.

“We’re really excited to do a small urban infill project like this and to introduce new, high-quality housing to that part of the city,” said Patrick Braga, Vice President for New Market Development for Visum.

What appears to set this plan apart from previous Visum projects, however, is that these are not intended as high-end apartments. The firm hopes to leverage a set of grants and a CIITAP tax abatement to make all twelve units affordable housing. This is highly unusual because the procedures and nuances of affordable housing development are very different from typical market-rate development, and as a result, developers either specialize in affordable housing, or they don’t do it at all.

“We’re applying for CIITAP abatements and the county’s Community Housing Development Fund (CHDF) to try to make all twelve units affordable. Our target is households making 70-80% of the area median income (AMI), depending on the size of household. This target and ultimate market-rate/workforce-attainable mix may shift depending on how much we’re awarded from those programs,” said Braga.

Units at 70-80% area median income would be geared towards $41,340-$47,200/year for a single person, and $47,180-$53,920 for a couple living together, according to state guidelines.

Along with CIITAP and CHDF, the proposal is being bundled with three other projects as part of a New York Main Street program grant intended to revitalize downtown urban areas. The $322,500 grant request is being written up by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, and the city’s Planning Committee gave its support to the grant application at their last meeting (the grant is being written by the DIA, and it costs the city nothing to apply).

According to documentation filed with the city, the $322,500 from the state would be used to leverage work on four downtown projects, for which there is only an outline at present – a commercial project in the Clinton House, a commercial project in the Boardman House, a “commercial and housing project” at 108 West State Street (the Ithaca Agency Building), and Visum’s plan for 327 West Seneca Street. The maximum award for any one project cannot be more than $100,000. Under the rules of the grant, any new or rehabbed housing units will be required to be 90% area median income for at least five years.

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