ITHACA, N.Y. — In what is being described as an attempt to reach into the underserved condominium market, Visum Development Group is planning a for-sale housing community in the town of Ithaca off Schickel Road.

The project would be built at 1145 Danby Road, the assigned address for 23.07 acres of vacant land just south of the Namgyal monastery. The forested property, which was previously used for farmland, is owned by Boris Simkin of Westview Partners LLC, who purchased it from Ithaca College in 2007. Simkin is slowly but steadily building out Westview on the neighboring land, a conventional 31-unit luxury home development that is about one half complete.

Visum’s plan calls for most of the property to remain it its natural state. Seeking to “redefine suburban living”, the units, six clusters of five-unit townhouse strings and six to seven duplexes (for a total of 42-44 units) would be clustered together around a park-like central green, and road access would be from a new road that will intersect with Schickel Road, meaning only indirect access to Danby Road/96B. In sketch review, town planners noted that it was unclear whether the town would accept the new road a public road (and therefore take on its maintenance), or it would stay a private road.

The units would include two-story townhomes approximately 1500 square-feet in size, and single-story ranch-style duplex units. A unique feature of the plan is, albeit in contrast to its semi-rural location, a focus on the public space. Not only would there be walking paths and trails throughout the property, the buildings are designed so that the garages are accessed from the rear of the townhomes, with the front entries being dedicated to porches, sidewalks and other features that Visum calls a “nature-centered and community-oriented experience”. The ranches would be along the edge of the housing cluster and have a U-shape, with a two-car garage accessed by a shared courtyard, living spaces towards the street and bedrooms in the rear of the unit, which would face outward into the wooded surroundings.

“At our design’s core, we followed best-practice placemaking strategies to articulate a usable and welcoming central public space that truly differentiates the neighborhood as a unique and appealing part of Ithaca,” stated Visum in their sketch plan pitch. “With this opportunity, we are aiming to change how we think about Ithaca’s suburbs and what it means to reside in the Town (of Ithaca) – not only to have unparalleled comfort, but truly to live with all of Tompkins County at one’s fingertips.”

In the filing, Visum states that the three target markets for the for-sale units are households with children, empty nesters (the ranch units were designed with aging-in-place features in mind), and faculty and staff of Ithaca College. A price point was not established in the sketch plan material. The project would be unique among fast-growing Visum’s offerings, which have tended to focus on rental properties more urban settings, particularly in Collegetown.

The sketch plan discussion was held by the town of Ithaca planning board last Tuesday, the first step in the project review process. The next step would be the town declaring itself the lead agency to conduct the environmental review of the plan, which could happen as soon as the October 16th meeting. The standard review process takes a minimum of a few months to move from the start of planning board review to the granting of approvals.

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